Prevention, elimination, and subdivision in the war against ToBRFV

Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus contamination is on the rise across the globe. In the Netherlands, TuinbouwAlert has responded to this by updating its hygiene protocol. The protocol greatly emphasizes prevention and observing existing elimination scenarios for infected farms. It also advises growers to carefully consider their farms' layout.

Farms can be further subdivided into so-called phytosanitary units. That can prevent the contamination of the entire company when there is a disease outbreak like the ToBRFV. That what everyone that's part of the TuinbouwAlert says in an update. That can be done by things like extensive compartmentalization and separate packaging, equipment, and water flows. Growers should think about all this when building new greenhouses and planting new crops.

According to the latest figures, there are 26 infected cultivation companies in the Netherlands. These cover a total of more than 450 hectares. There are six contaminated farms in Belgium. The virus is also still spreading worldwide. That's evident from recent reports from Hungary, Bulgaria, and Norway.

See the hygiene protocol for tomatoes, version 3.0 of June 2021 (in Dutch).

Q-status under discussion

Various major Dutch fruit and vegetable companies are united within TuinbouwAlert. The Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) monitors farms. When there's a contamination, they carry out an elimination plan. The NVWA doesn't support the current European quarantine status of the ToBRFV. Not given its characteristics. 

ToBRFV, which is highly contagious, is transmitted mechanically. It poses no danger to public health. However, the virus can negatively affect production (volume) in tomato cultivation. It can also cause quality loss. Affected tomatoes sometimes have yellow and brown spots. These can't be sold; they don't meet quality standards.

Pressure on the Netherlands

The ToBRFV broke out in Europe in 2019. Then, the European Commission gave the virus a quarantine status. That's contrary to the NVWA's wishes. Since then, the NVWA has been advocating that the EC not extend the ToBRFV's quarantine status. It applies, at least, until May 2022.

A different status is being considered. One in which hygiene measures for growers remain relevant but are no longer EU-mandated. The spread of ToBRFV can also be prevented by imposing requirements on seeds and young plants. Virologists Marleen Botermans of the NVWA and Ton van Arnhem of the National Plant Protection Organisation (NPPO) recently explained this. That was in the NVWA's annual report. TuinbouwAlert is coordinating with other member states. They're looking at how to minimize damage and tackle the ToBRFV after May 2022.


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