Preventing Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus: grower perspectives

Monday, 8 March 2021

Nathalie Key shares insights and experiences of growers in the UK affected by Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit (ToBRFV). She explains how this can help improve our understanding and control of the virus in the future.

With six confirmed outbreaks of ToBRFV in the UK since 2019, it is absolutely key that growers remain vigilant in their avoidance of this virus. It is also crucial to make preparations to identify, manage and eradicate it in case there is an outbreak.

We recently commissioned Dave Kaye (ADAS-RSK) to examine the experience of three UK growers who faced an outbreak of ToBRFV on their sites. The goal was to explore the first-hand experience of growers and help us progress our understanding of the nature of the virus, including patterns of spread and symptoms. Learnings from their experiences has helped to build on current best practice recommendations, which you can read in the full report. Key points include:

ToBRFV avoidance

Regularly update biosecurity and hygiene protocols:

  • Monitor the implementation of protocols with all your staff
  • Ensure all staff and essential visitors strictly follow protocols on-site, e.g.
    • Ensure appropriate use and disposal of PPE
    • Disinfection of hands and machinery

Maintain close contact with seed suppliers:

  • Ensure that seed complies with UK legislation designed to protect the industry against ToBRFV
  • Ensure all seed is free of tobamoviruses
  • Test young plants for ToBRFV before dispatch from the propagator
Case studies: Growers experiences of ToBRFV

Nathalie Key

Knowledge Exchange Manager (Protected Edibles, Vine Crops, Mushrooms)

Identification and management of ToBRFV

Ensure staff are trained to monitor and identify ToBRFV symptoms:

  • Symptoms may not develop consistently, and infected crop could be asymptomatic

Help delay the onset of symptoms:

  • Maintain high levels of plant vigour and avoid plant stress
  • Plant health is a priority where infection is confirmed, but crops are asymptomatic

Do not wait for PHSI statutory surveillance:

  • If you suspect an outbreak contact your local inspector or email or call 0300 1000 313 as soon as possible

Clean up and eradication of ToBRFV on sites

Carefully remove infected crop debris using one of the following methods:

  • Incinerate on-site (with an exemption license)
  • Dispose of via deep burial
  • Put through a biodigester
  • send to landfill

Other clean-up recommendations include:

  • Vacuum production areas after sweeping, jet wash, disinfect, then fog
  • Clean all equipment in the infected area before disinfecting
  • Consider treating irrigation storage areas and water
  • Use disinfectants demonstrated to be effective against ToBRFV at their maximum rates
  • After disinfection, swab and test high-risk areas to confirm eradication

If you’d like to find out more about Dave’s review, further insights from these case studies were presented at our webinar:

Why is Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus a concern?

The highly infectious Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus (ToBRFV), which was first identified in Israel in 2014, remains a major concern for commercial tomato and pepper growers across the world. The virus has the potential to cause significant economic impact to businesses via crop loss and the associated costs with necessary increases in levels of hygiene and biosecurity to mitigate and manage the virus. Find out more about the symptoms, spread and hygiene recommendations

Nathalie has been responsible for the AHDB knowledge exchange activities for Protected Edibles (tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers), Mushrooms and Narcissus for over two years.

Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus: Symptoms and hygiene recommendations Case studies: Growers experiences of ToBRFV