Pepino Mosaic Virus information
The virus can be asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms so it is important that you remain vigilant with hygiene, especially with equipment, plant material and people that are moving on and off site.
Below are some points about the Pepino Mosaic Virus response.
Pepino Mosaic virus response:
- For some weeks Biosecurity New Zealand and the tomato industry have been investigating the discovery in New Zealand of the pepino mosaic virus (PepMV).
- The virus was first detected in an Auckland glasshouse operation and has subsequently been found in a handful of tomato production facilities in the wider Auckland region.
- PepMV is a virus that can cause pepino mosaic disease – predominantly in tomatoes, but potentially in other solanaceous plants including potatoes and eggplants.
- It’s not yet certain how badly PepMV would affect tomato crops in New Zealand. It appears to have minor foliage effects on younger plants, but as the plant ages, can cause mottling of the fruit itself.
- It is important to note that while PepMV can affect tomato production, it does not present any food safety concern or risk to people. New Zealand grown tomatoes are perfectly safe to eat.
- The risk of transmission of the disease through selling fruit is considered low.
- Now the virus has been confirmed in several facilities, it is considered possible that it may be distributed more widely in the country’s tomato growing operations.
- For this reason, we strongly encourage all growers of tomatoes to follow careful biosecurity procedures on their properties.
Look out for signs of the virus:
- Keep a close eye on your crop and if you believe you have found signs of PepMV, immediately contact Biosecurity New Zealand through its freephone: 0800 80 99 66.
- You will be given advice on what actions to take.
- Those premises where PepMV has been found are able to continue operating and selling fruit under strengthened hygiene conditions.
- However, there may be restrictions on exporting to markets who are known to consider PepMV of quarantine concern.
- Affected plants can show stunting of the growing point of the plant or damage resembling hormonal herbicide damage. Leaves around the ‘head’ of the plant may show dark spots and significant distortion while lower leaves may have brown, necrotic lesions.
- Other leaf symptoms may be yellow spots which later develop into bright yellow patches on the leaf and ‘bubbling’ on the leaf surface.
- Symptoms observed on infected fruits have been described as 'marbled' and may be more readily seen in large red varieties.
- There is no clear information on how PepMV affects fruit quality. Different symptoms are exhibited among different tomato varieties and in international research, there has been no correlation found between variety and susceptibility to the virus.
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Practice thorough biosecurity measures:
- PepMV is spread by seed, stalks and leaves and very easily through mechanical contact including contaminated tools, hands, clothing, direct plant-to-plant contact, and propagation. Bumblebees used as pollinators and insects such as white fly are also known to spread the disease.
- While the virus can be detected in the fruit itself, the risk of transmission of the disease through selling fruit is considered low.
- Good biosecurity cleanliness measures are needed at all stages of crop production.
- Restrict access to glasshouses to essential staff.
- Keep good records of who has been in glasshouses and when.
- If possible, assign workers their own PPE, tools, carts etc and restrict these to single glasshouses or glasshouse sections/compartments.
- Clean and disinfect tools regularly - particularly between using in different glasshouses or compartments.
- Ensure secure disposal of glasshouse waste to landfill. Do not allow plant debris to pile up in or near the glasshouse where it could blow back inside or be carried on feet or tyres.
- Attention to post harvest glasshouse sanitation and disinfecting between crop cycles to minimise plant infection.
Pepino mosaic virus is a notifiable organism, meaning you have a legal obligation to report any suspected infection to Biosecurity New Zealand to MPI on 0800 80 99 66.
Grower virus information is now available in Korean and Chinese.