World tomato production saved from a dangerous disease

A unique gene with a high level of resistance to ToBRFV in tomatoes has been found

Enza Zaden reports that it has found a solution for tomato growers to defeat the devastating tomato brown wrinkle virus ToBRFV. It was possible to determine the gene that provides natural protection of the culture.

“There is a lot at stake for tomato producers today,” says Sergio de La Fuente van Bentem, a phytopathologist at Enza Zaden. – That’s why our team worked very hard to find a solution. Now that we have found the answer, we are starting to develop tomato varieties that are highly resistant to ToBRFV. We expect that they will be ready in the coming years to maintain the production of tomatoes both in large holdings and in private farms. After all, tomatoes are the most sold vegetable at the international level”.

Since it was first detected in Israel in 2014, ToBRFV has spread to parts of Europe, America, Asia and Africa by mechanical transmission.

ToBRFV has an incubation period of two to three weeks before symptoms appear, so its prevention and containment is challenging.

“Knowing that this virus is transmitted mechanically, we realized that it would travel around the world after hearing about it from our sales representatives in the middle East in 2014,” explains KES Konst, Director of tomato research at Enza Zaden. “By comparing the knowledge of tobamo viruses, such as tomato mosaic virus (ToMV) and tobacco mosaic virus (TMV), we set out to search for a resistance gene, as a similar approach has been used for decades to stop these two viruses.”

Enza Zaden’s approach was to screen for new resistance genes in the germ plasm of wild tomatoes , a huge collection of seeds from wild relatives of tomatoes that can be crossed with conventional cultivated tomatoes.

“It was like looking for a needle in a haystack, but in the end we identified a gene that provides high resistance to ToBRFV,” De La Fuente van Bentem said.