Each year more than NOK 400 million worth of tomatoes are cultivated in Norway. Just like us humans, tomatoes can be attacked by viruses – the new tomato brown rugose fruit virus is one of them.
In recent years, tomato growers in several countries have had problems with this new tomato virus, which was first discovered in Jordan and Israel in 2014.
“The virus is called tomato brown rugose fruit virus (ToBRFV), but we call it “tomatbrunflekkvirus” in Norwegian,” says Dag-Ragnar Blystad, virologist at NIBIO.
The virus has now spread to the US and several European countries. The virus is highly stable and transmissible, and once it appears in a tomato crop it is difficult to get rid of. It causes reduced quality and yield, thereby resulting in significant loss of income for tomato growers.
NIBIO has determined that the likelihood of outbreaks is very high. The Norwegian Food Safety Authority (NFSA) therefore sponsored a program to monitor and map the virus in Norway in 2021. NFSA will take samples of tomato plants, which NIBIO will analyse.
The new virus belongs to the Tobamovirus family and, like other tobamoviruses, ToBTFV spreads easily through contact from plant to plant. The virus also remains transmissible in soil for a long time. Transmission through seeds is also highly likely.
The new virus presents a great potential for damage. The damage appears in the form of yellow and brown spots on the fruit of infected plants. This means that these cannot be sold. Even plants with mild symptoms can lose their vitality. They must therefore be replaced sooner than healthy plants.
“If there is an outbreak in one or more Norwegian tomato crops, the losses – and thereby the replacement costs – could reach between NOK 10 and 100 million, depending on the extent,” says Blystad.
Strict hygiene and preventive measures are the only way we can fight this virus.