TYLCV, ToLCNDV and ToBRFV are responsible for emerging viral diseases that threaten tomatoes and cucurbits worldwide. The horticulture value chain is rising up to the challenge in facing this devastating threat to these staple crops. Our “country focus” series explores the situation in the project’s focus countries. In our final edition, we shine a light on our remaining target countries Italy, Luxembourg, the UK, Israel, India and Morocco.
ToBRFV with major impact on tomato yields in Israel
Israel and Italy are major players in the tomato and cucurbit value chain. Italy cultivates the largest area of tomatoes in the EU and is the world’s third largest tomato producer. Israel is not among the top producers in the world in terms of quantity, but is renowned for its innovations in agricultural technologies.
The mechanically transmitted Tomato brown rugose fruit virus (ToBRFV) has especially hit Israel in the past years. Israel was one of the first countries to be hit by ToBRFV in 2014/15. VIRTIGATION partner Volcani Center (VC) was crucial in detecting the first ToBRFV occurrences in Southern Israel. Since ToBRFV has appeared in Israel, annual tomato yields in the country have decreased persistently, even reaching only 50% of pre-ToBRFV levels. It is thus not surprising that the country’s horticulture sector is among the global frontrunners in trying to tackle the ToBRFV menace.
Region of Sicily mainly affected by ToBRFV in Italy
In Italy, ToBRFV has caused problems in particular for the region of Sicily. In 2018, the country first detected ToBRFV in a tomato greenhouse in the region. Since then, the majority of new ToBRFV outbreaks have taken place throughout Sicily. Other ToBRFV findings occured in the regions of Apulia, Piemonte and Toscana. As concerns Luxembourg and Morocco, ToBRFV is not present yet. In the UK, multiple ToBRFV outbreaks took place between 2019-2020. Currently however, the European and Mediterrean Plant Protection Organization (EPPO) considers ToBRFV to be absent and eradicated in the UK.
In India, plant health authorities have officially not yet detected the presence of ToBRFV in the country. Yet, between 2020-2021, multiple EU countries intercepted ToBRFV-infected tomato and chili pepper seed importations from India. This could indicate that ToBRFV is already circulating in India. Considering that India is the world’s second largest tomato producer, it could further amplify the devastating impact of the ToBRFV pandemic affecting tomato crops.
India firmly in the grip of ToLCNDV
The whitefly-transmitted Tomato leaf curl New Delhi virus (ToLCNDV) originated already in 1995 in India. Initially, it first affected tomatoes, but then caused major damage on cucurbit crops in the Indian subcontinent. ToLCNDV is present throughout the country, but has especially hit the southern state of Karnataka and the western state of Maharashtra, both key growing regions in India. VIRTIGATION international partner UASB – University of Agricultural Sciences Bengaluru (capital of Karnataka state) – has played a key role in characterizing ToLCNDV and devising IPM strategies against the whitefly vector transmitting ToLCNDV, the Bemisia tabaci.
ToLCNDV is also present in Morocco and Italy, although not as widely as in India. In Morocco, plant health authorities detected the virus first in 2017 in zucchini crops near Agadir and Taroudant. In Italy, ToLCNDV has been present in the country since 2015. It has mainly affected zucchini, courgette and also eggplant crops in the southern parts of the country. VIRTIGATION partners University of Catania (UNICT) and Corteva have been at the forefront in researching methods to manage the ToLCNDV-spreading Bemisia Tabaci whitefly vector in cucurbit crops. In Luxembourg, the UK and Israel, ToLCNDV is not present.
TYLCV present since the 1990s
The Tomato yellow leaf curl virus (TYLCV), which is also whitefly-transmitted, is present in Italy, Israel, Morocco and India. There has been no record of TYLCV in Luxembourg and the UK, according to the EPPO. In Italy, Israel, Morocco and India, national plant health authorities first reported TYLCV in the 1990s. Since then, TYLCV outbreaks have continuously occurred in these countries. However, contrary to ToBRFV or ToLCNDV, TYLCV is not considered as an equally critical threat to tomato and cucurbit crops in affected countries. This is further reflected in the fact that e.g. TYLCV is not on the current alert list of EPPO.