First UK outbreak of Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus confirmed

Symptoms of the Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus (ToBRFV) have been reported for the first time in a UK tomato crop.

Confirmed by laboratory testing, the outbreak has been reported to the Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate (PHSI). The affected glasshouse has taken the necessary steps to eradicate the virus and has destroyed their crop.

ToBRFV has caused significant issues for growers of tomatoes across Europe and beyond, causing unmarketable fruit.

Dr. Nikki Harrison, AHDB senior scientist and coordinator for the ToBRFV steering group, said: “We are advising the industry to review their production protocols, particularly regarding imports of seed and plants, and crop hygiene.

Growers need to be vigilant and look out for symptoms and act promptly if they suspect infection.

The likely routes of infection of the disease are through seed, propagation material or contact through contaminated tools, hands and clothing.

Tomato is the major host of the virus, but trials have indicated it could also infect sweet peppers.

Dr. Phil Morley, technical officer for the Tomato Growers’ Association (TGA), said: “By reviewing the experience of growers elsewhere in the world who are managing the virus, gathering available information from experts and by coordinating through the ToBRFV Steering Group with the TGA we have been able to act quickly and inform growers.

“There is much we can do collectively to control any spread and to limit the impact for our industry at a key time of year for British tomatoes.”

Having monitored the spread of ToBRFV in European crops, AHDB first warned the industry of the potential impact of the virus in March and urged growers to look out for symptoms.

Common symptoms include:

  • Mosaic staining of the leaves;
  • Discoloured fruit with yellow spots;
  • Deformation of fruits.

Suspected outbreaks of a viroid or virus in a tomato crop or any other non-native plant pest should be reported to the relevant authority.

Details on ToBRFV symptoms, biology and crop hygiene measures can be found on the AHDB online knowledge library.

AHDB is funding research on crop hygiene for ToBRFV and guidelines will be updated as new information becomes available.