Emerging viral diseases caused by TYLCV, ToLCNDV and ToBRFV threaten the plant health of tomatoes and cucurbits. The horticulture sector in the EU and worldwide is racing to find solutions to tackle this challenge. In our 6-part blog series, we shine a light on the situation in VIRTIGATION’s focus countries, and what is being done to address it. Our second instalment covers the Netherlands, one of the top agriculture exporters in the world.
ToBRFV as main issue in the Netherlands
In the Netherlands, tomato greenhouse production is spread throughout the country. The main greenhouse region in the country is Westland, a region situated between the cities of The Hague and Rotterdam. Only Tomato brown rugose fruit virus (ToBRFV) outbreaks have affected the Dutch high-tech tomato greenhouses. Thus, ToBRFV is the main problem for the sector. The first official ToBRFV infection in the Netherlands was reported on the 1st of October in a tomato greenhouse in the municipality of Westland. Since then, Dutch plant protection services have identified 36 tomato greenhouses infected with ToBRFV throughout the Netherlands. The infected greenhouses cover an area of several hundreds of hectares.
According to the European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization (EPPO), ToBRFV is currently present in the country with few occurrences. Dutch plant protection services (NVWA) declare the pest status of ToBRFV to be present, actionable and under eradication. Tomato leaf curl New Delhi virus (ToLCNDV) and Tomato yellow leaf curl virus (TYLCV) do not occur in the Netherlands at the moment. Moreover, as in neighbouring Belgium, ToBRFV has only affected in the Netherlands, but not cucurbits.
Quarantine pest affecting a key economic sector
As a quarantine pest, ToBRFV poses a major obstacle to Dutch tomato cultivation. Tomatoes are one of the most high-performing fruits and vegetables exported by the country. The Netherlands is one of the world’s largest exporters of fresh tomatoes. As ToBRFV spreads fast, is highly contagious and difficult to contain, it seriously impacts this key economic sector of the country.
The Netherlands implements strict measures to tackle the spread of ToBRFV. The country conducts regular testing to monitor and ensure seed health. It is also mandatory for growers to clean their greenhouses at the end of the season. Growers also are obliged to destroy ToBRFV-infected plant material.
VIRTIGATION partners support the fight against ToBRFV
In the Netherlands, the VIRTIGATION partners Wageningen University (WU) and Stichting Wageningen Research (WR) play a key role in supporting the value chain in tackling ToBRFV. Together they form Wageningen University & Research, the country’s top university and research & technology organization. It is also renowned as one of the best agricultural universities worldwide.
WR is the National Knowledge Broker (NKB) for the Netherlands in VIRTIGATION multi-actor-approach. This research & technology organization is assisting tomato growers and the value chain in several ways in fighting ToBRFV. Firstly, WR develops and assesses diagnostic tools to test for the virus. It also organizes regular events and presentations for growers on ToBRFV. There, WR provides them with vital background information on the characteristics of the virus and possible hygiene measures. WR has also established hygiene protocols for growers to prevent ToBRFV infection. It also guides them in what to do in case a viral outbreak occurs. It also cooperates closely with the NVWA.
Preparing the Netherlands to face future plant viruses
Alongside VIRTIGATION, WR and WU are also working through other projects to prepare the country to face future emerging threats to plant health. WR collaborates with key players of the Dutch horticulture sector to investigate and assess possible routes through which ToLCNDV could be introduced into the Netherlands. Furthermore, WR runs several smaller projects to validate diagnostics for the testing of plant materials and seeds. Through these projects, WR and WU hope to provide also valuable lessons learnt for the research done in VIRTIGATION in the coming years.