A Dangerous Virus for Greenhouse Tomatoes and Peppers

Tomato leaves with tomato brown rugose fruit virus (left) and normal tomato leaves (photo credit: Clemson University)

Dr. Tony Keinath is a Clemson Research and Extension plant pathologist housed at the Coastal Research and Education Center in Charleston:

Tomato Brown rugose fruit virus is a new virus that was discovered in Israel in 2014.

This disease is only a problem on greenhouse tomatoes. It has not been found in field grown tomatoes and it is not likely to be found on field grown tomatoes, so South Carolina growers who only grow tomatoes in the field are not likely to see this virus.

Currently the United States is inspecting all tomato plants and all tomato fruit that are being shipped into the United States. The virus is spread by infected plants, sap or the juice from the tomato leaves and also in seed. So any plants that are susceptible to tomato Brown rugose fruit virus that comes in contact with the sap from an infected plant has a high risk of also becoming infected.

It also infects bell pepper, tobacco, petunia and night shade.

The symptoms on the leaves of tomato look a lot like other tomato viruses on the leaves take on a bumpy appearance.  They also have a mottled light green, dark green look to them. The fruit are also mottled. The fruit have an uneven ripened appearance, um, red and yellow, or can also turn completely brown.

The most important way to manage the disease is to plant healthy seed. The other way to prevent spread of the virus is to clean your hands with skim milk like you are recommended to do for preventing tomato, tomato mosaic virus.

Growers who suspect they have tomatoes with this virus are asked to contact their local Clemson Extension agent.

Tomatoes that are suspected of having tomato brown rugose fruit virus can be shipped to the USDA U S vegetable laboratory in Charleston.