Pepino Mosaic Viurs Resistant Tomato Research

Tackling A Tough Foe

Like many greenhouse tomato growers, Michael Bledsoe has long battled Pepino mosaic virus (PepMV). Bledsoe is the vice president for scientific and regulatory affairs for Village Farms, one of the largest greenhouse tomato growers in the world, with operations in West Texas and British Columbia. “Pepino mosaic virus is fairly ubiquitous, certainly,” he says. “To not have Pepino is more rare than to have it.”

But its familiarity doesn’t make PepMV any more palatable. “If it comes in the middle of a cropping cycle, you can lose a whole week’s production,” he says. “A week’s production is $55,000 for a 20-acre greenhouse, and we have 270 acres, so you can see it can be a very devastat-ing problem.”

What makes PepMV even more insidious, says Bledsoe, is that it seems to exacerbate any other problem in the greenhouse. Bledsoe, who designs all of Village Farms’ IPM programs, has seen it time and again. “Pepino makes everything else worse,” he says.

Differing Strains

Because of his experience with PepMV, Bledsoe has become a big fan of USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientist Kai-Shu Ling, who is attempting to develop a tomato that can stand up to attack by PepMV. For years, Ling has been studying the origins and evolution of PepMV, which can damage tomato fruit, stunt growth, and leave the plant vulnerable to other infections.

Two PepMV strains that infect tomato plants in the U.S. show a distinct genetic divergence from strains that infect tomato plants in Europe. Ling, who works at the ARS U.S. Vegetable Laboratory in Charleston, SC, studied the genetic makeup of some PepMV strains found in South America, where the virus was first found. He wanted to see if he could tease out the relationships between the PepMV strains found in Europe, South America, and the U.S.

When Ling examined the makeup of U.S. PepMV strains, he observed a strong similarity to the South American strains. One U.S. strain exhibited almost 99% of the same DNA sequence as a South American strain. Another U.S. strain shared almost 91% of its genetic traits with a different South American strain. However, European strains only shared from 78% to 86% of the genetic characteristics found in South American strains.

Giving Growers Hope

Ling also identified three varieties of wild tomatoes with a range of genetic resistance to PepMV. He used the most robust of these varieties to generate new progeny that remained symptom-free after they were exposed to PepMV strains found in South America.

Ling will now use this symptom-free variety to see if he can create a tomato plant with genetic resistance to two U.S. PepMV strains. If he succeeds, he will try to develop a tomato type that has a more general resistance to the European strain of PepMV.

Bledsoe, for one, is rooting him on. “Kai has helped us answer if it’s a new virus, and with phytosanitation procedures,” he says. “But if he could build in some resistance in the future, that would be an even bigger deal.”

Taking No Chances

Village Farms, one of the world’s leading hydroponic tomato growers, takes the doctor’s orders. The doctor in this case is Ling, Ph.D., a USDA-Agricultural Research Service plant pathologist, who recommends that greenhouse growers be very careful when it comes to sourcing their seed. Much more so than with field-grown tomatoes, viruses can really run wild in the greenhouse, so the best way to avoid a virus is to prevent it from ever getting inside in the first place.

“Make sure you source only from reputable companies; don’t buy cheap tomato seed,” says Ling. “Make sure the seed is tested and certified.”

Bledsoe, who holds a doctorate himself, says Ling is one of the leading authorities on such viruses. Because Village Farms doesn’t want to take risk with any of their 270 production acres, he takes Ling’s advice to heart. “Every seed that comes in now gets tested by an independent lab,” says Bledsoe.

If a seed were to test positive for a certain virus, it gets sent off to a university or other research center that specializes in the virus or viroid for DNA sequencing. For example, were a seed to test positive for Pepino mosaic virus, Village Farms would send the seed to Ling.

It’s worth the extra time and expense, says Bledsoe, especially with some of the rarer, more devastating viroids where greenhouse finds trigger a red alert. “We will take that infected plant out and all the other plants around it out,” he says. “We treat it like the plague.”

Leave a Reply

Featured Stories

All Vegetables Stories >All Fruits Stories >All Nuts Stories >All Citrus Stories >

The Latest

TomatoesProduction Reaches An All-Time High For Processing Toma…
August 29, 2014
A record high is predicted for the 2014 processing tomato crop. Read More
CitrusFlorida Department Of Citrus Knocks NPR Piece Over Juic…
August 28, 2014
Agency goes to bat for the industry regarding statement slighting OJ's health benefits. Read More
Disease ControlLate Blight Update Reveals Heightened Activity
August 28, 2014
While several states in the Northeast have confirmed the presence of late blight, the disease has not been reported in North Dakota or Minnesota. Read More
CitrusFlorida Energy Firm Charged Up About Citrus Biomass Pot…
August 28, 2014
Machine called a game-changer when it comes to a cost-effective, efficient way for tree removal and re-purposing. Read More
EquipmentNew Tractors Improve Maneuverability And Operator Contr…
August 28, 2014
The Magnum Rowtrac tractors from Case IH meet growers’ cropping needs through a wide variety of row spacing and belt options.   Read More
NutsCalifornia County Passes Ordinance To Protect Walnut Gr…
August 27, 2014
Verification of ownership needed to complete sales of valuable nuts. Read More
NutsAlmond Growers Hit By Russian Import Limits
August 27, 2014
Growers reflect on changes to export market in light of produce ban. Read More
Farm ManagementLeadership And Management Expert To Speak At California…
August 27, 2014
Daniel Goleman will make presentation at California State University-Fresno. Read More
CitrusNational Scientific Summit On Herbicide Resistant Weeds…
August 27, 2014
Topics to be covered include the economics of proactively managing herbicide resistance, education and outreach efforts, and incentives and regulatory initiatives. Read More
FruitsFlorida Organic Group Dedicated To Serving Growers, Com…
August 27, 2014
Education and development programs are plentiful for interested producers. Read More
VegetablesExperimental Herbicide Technology Blasts Weeds In Rows
August 27, 2014
The technology uses an air compressor to spray corncob grit on both sides of a crop, killing young weeds. Read More
Disease ControlFungal Disease Outbreak Hits Pacific Northwest Vegetabl…
August 27, 2014
An outbreak of blackleg, light leaf spot, and white leaf spot can be significant problems in several vegetable crops.   Read More
CitrusClean Water Conundrum: Ditch The Rule Or Ditch The Myth…
August 26, 2014
Regulation inundation causing a rising tide of confusion for farmers. Read More
BerriesMichigan State University Extension Offers Tips To Prev…
August 26, 2014
Humidity, rainy periods conducive to disease development. Read More
FruitsSpotted Wing Drosophila Populations Rising In Michigan
August 26, 2014
Extension researchers advise berry growers on trapping, salt testing to take stock of pest population. Read More
Apples & PearsNorthwest Pear Crop Estimate Revised Upward
August 26, 2014
Washington and Oregon pear growers forecast a larger size crop than that originally estimated. Read More
VegetablesAgrium Acquires A Controlling Interest In Biotech Compa…
August 26, 2014
The company also acquires stake in Agricen Sciences as part of strategic effort to expand their offering of integrated, next-generation plant health technologies. Read More
Insect ControlCover All Angles When Taking On Threecornered Alfalfa H…
August 25, 2014
Learn how to ID, the survival and spread, and management methods for this insect pest. Read More