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
UF/IFAS researcher looks after pigs on weed control duty
More VegetablesGot Weeds? Perhaps Pigs Can Help
July 27, 2015
Old-time crop protection method using hogs now being tested by UF/IFAS researchers. Read More
Washington Capitol building
CitrusHouse Passes Bill To Block State GMO Food Labeling Mandates
July 27, 2015
The legislation would offer a federal standard for voluntary labeling of foods containing GMOs.   Read More
Citrus2 Dozen Florida Nurseries Vying For Coveted Cannabis Growing Licenses
July 27, 2015
With only five spots available to produce the low-THC ‘Charlotte’s Web’ strain, tedious review process is in full swing. Read More
Insect & Disease UpdateSecond Case In A Month Of Citrus Greening In California
July 24, 2015
More trees testing positive for disease within close proximity of original find. Read More
CitrusUSDA Expands Crop Insurance Options For Fruit And Nut Growers
July 24, 2015
The USDA announced the expansion of crop insurance to provide additional options for fruit and nut producers. The Supplemental Coverage Read More
FFVA 2015 Annual Convention logo
CitrusFlorida Fruit & Vegetable Association Annual Convention Stacking Up To Be One For The Ages
July 23, 2015
Association's 72nd gathering to feature high-profile speakers, up-to-the-minute Issues Forums, and some fun to mix in with the business of the day. Read More
CitrusMarketing Order Amendments Referendum Set For Fresh Florida Citrus
July 22, 2015
Changes include the authorization and regulation of new varieties. Read More
Shannon Shepp
CitrusInterim Executive Director Named For Florida Department Of Citrus
July 22, 2015
Shannon Shepp will take on leadership duties immediately after unanimous Citrus Commission vote. Read More
downy mildew symptoms on basil
Disease ControlRed Lights Slow Down Growth Of Downy Mildew On Basil
July 22, 2015
University of Florida scientists say the technology may help growers manage the disease and reduce chemical inputs. Read More
Bacterial wilt of curcurbits
CucurbitsWin The War Against Bacterial Wilt Of Cucurbits
July 22, 2015
Learn how to identify, the survival and spread, as well as management methods of this vegetable disease. Read More
The Latest
UF/IFAS researcher looks after pigs on weed control duty
More VegetablesGot Weeds? Perhaps Pigs Can Help
July 27, 2015
Old-time crop protection method using hogs now being tested by UF/IFAS researchers. Read More
Washington Capitol building
CitrusHouse Passes Bill To Block State GMO Food Labeling Mand…
July 27, 2015
The legislation would offer a federal standard for voluntary labeling of foods containing GMOs.   Read More
Citrus2 Dozen Florida Nurseries Vying For Coveted Cannabis Gr…
July 27, 2015
With only five spots available to produce the low-THC ‘Charlotte’s Web’ strain, tedious review process is in full swing. Read More
Insect & Disease UpdateSecond Case In A Month Of Citrus Greening In California
July 24, 2015
More trees testing positive for disease within close proximity of original find. Read More
CitrusUSDA Expands Crop Insurance Options For Fruit And Nut G…
July 24, 2015
The USDA announced the expansion of crop insurance to provide additional options for fruit and nut producers. The Supplemental Coverage Read More
FFVA 2015 Annual Convention logo
CitrusFlorida Fruit & Vegetable Association Annual Conven…
July 23, 2015
Association's 72nd gathering to feature high-profile speakers, up-to-the-minute Issues Forums, and some fun to mix in with the business of the day. Read More
CitrusMarketing Order Amendments Referendum Set For Fresh Flo…
July 22, 2015
Changes include the authorization and regulation of new varieties. Read More
Shannon Shepp
CitrusInterim Executive Director Named For Florida Department…
July 22, 2015
Shannon Shepp will take on leadership duties immediately after unanimous Citrus Commission vote. Read More
downy mildew symptoms on basil
Disease ControlRed Lights Slow Down Growth Of Downy Mildew On Basil
July 22, 2015
University of Florida scientists say the technology may help growers manage the disease and reduce chemical inputs. Read More
Bacterial wilt of curcurbits
CucurbitsWin The War Against Bacterial Wilt Of Cucurbits
July 22, 2015
Learn how to identify, the survival and spread, as well as management methods of this vegetable disease. Read More
Crop ProtectionRegional Integrated Pest Management Grants Reduced Pest…
July 22, 2015
The program created tools and training information designed for Western growers. Read More
CucurbitsSakata Promotes Melon With Long Shelf Life
July 22, 2015
The variety Infinite Gold features good holding ability in the field. Read More
BerriesDrought Doesn’t Stop Export Of California Strawberries …
July 21, 2015
California’s No. 1 export to Canada, strawberries, consumes quite a bit of water during a time of extreme drought, according Read More
Apples & PearsHot Temps, Hot Topics Served Up During IFTA Summer Tour
July 21, 2015
  The first day of the International Fruit Tree Association (IFTA) summer tour in Washington State focused on the Pasco-area Read More
CitrusInternational Report Confirms 2014 As Earth’s Warmest Y…
July 21, 2015
Scientific compilation notes climate markers continue to show global warming trend. Read More
FruitsWashington Supreme Court Rules Workers Paid Piece-Rate …
July 21, 2015
  According to a news story in the Yakima News Herald, the state Supreme Court of Washington unanimously ruled that Read More
Disease ControlStone Fruit Rots Rampant In East
July 21, 2015
The incidents of fruit rots in both sweet and tart cherries and peaches and nectarines are quite high in Pennsylvania Read More
non-gmo label leafy greens
CitrusGMO Labeling Battle Moves To House Floor
July 21, 2015
The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 was passed by the Agriculture Committee last week and will head Read More