Hygienic cultivation the key to preventing new tomato plant diseases


<p>The pepino mosaic virus (PepMV) was founded on a Finnish tomato farm in May. This is an easily spreading tomato plant disease, causing leave discoloration and uneven ripening of fruit. The disease harms professional tomato production by reducing crop quantities. Detected in Finland eight years ago on the last occasion. The virus poses no harm to consumers.</p>

The pepino mosaic virus spreads via tomato seeds or fruit. In practice, it rarely spreads via seed. A more probable vector is tomatoes imported to Finland from Southern Europe and North Africa, where the disease is rather common.

Crop loss is affected by the PepMV strain and the age of the tomato plants. The virus detected in Finland belongs to the so-called European strain, which is not as harmful as the North American strain already found in Europe.

Causing characteristic strong yellow patches and patterns on tomato plant leaves, the virus itself was identified by Evira’s plant health laboratory. The strain was analysed by a corresponding plant health laboratory abroad.

Disease must not be present in tomato plant propagation material

The pepino mosaic virus must be absent from tomato plant propagation material offered for sale; plant production is under regular supervision by the public authorities. Tomato-producing farmers are responsible for combating the disease.

Hygienic cultivation the key to disease prevention

This readily transmittable virus spreads easily in plant juice, through contaminated hands, clothing, tools and boxes. PepMV spreads rapidly, predominantly through rows of tomato plants. A persistent virus, it can remain infectious in dry plant waste for up to three months. Insects do not actually spread the virus. However, in severe cases the infection may spread from one plant to another via pollinating bees.

Vital measures for preventing the spread of the virus
• avoid bringing tomatoes purchased from outside onto the farm
• disinfect hands prior to working in the tomato greenhouse, particularly after handling imported tomatoes
• disinfect boxes returned from packaging plants or retailers
• disinfect footwear and cultivation tools frequently
• prevent visitors from entering cultivation rooms
• avoid renewing plants using the so-called interplanting method.

The pepino mosaic virus does not affect consumers

The pepino mosaic virus is harmful to plants. As such, it affects only professional production of tomatoes. It poses no threat to consumers. Tomatoes harvested from infected plants can be consumed as usual.

For more information, please contact:
Jari Poutanen, Senior Inspector, Evira, tel. +358 2077 25126 (control)
Jukka Tegel, Head of Section, Evira, tel. +358 2077 25070 (laboratory analytics)

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