Jul 27 2021

July update

Pepino mosaic virus found in tomatoes

A virus that affects tomatoes was found in plants in April & May at several Auckland glasshouse facilities and it may be in other operations around the country.

The virus is the pepino mosaic virus (PepMV) which can cause disease in tomatoes and some other crops including eggplants and possibly some potatoes.

It has minor effects on the foliage of younger plants, but as the plant ages, can cause mottling of the fruit. We don’t know what the longer-term effects will be on production.

PepMV does not present any food safety concern or risk to people. Tomatoes are safe to eat.

Those premises where PepMV has been found are still in business and operating under strengthened hygiene conditions.

There are steps you can take to protect your business and other growers.

Look out for the disease in your crop:

  • Keep a close eye on your crop
  • If you think you’ve 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.
  • You can find more on what to look for at: https://www.mpi.govt.nz/dmsdocument/45805-Pepino-mosaic-virus-PepMV-Biosecurity-measures-to-protect-your-business
  • 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.

Reducing the spread:

  • PepMV is spread by seed, stalks and leaves and very easily on contaminated tools, hands, clothing, direct plant-to-plant contact, and propagation. Bumblebees used as pollinators and insects such as whitefly 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. 


Next steps:

  • TomatoesNZ and Biosecurity New Zealand continue to investigate the scale of the situation.
  • It is likely there will be heightened surveillance checks to find out how widely the tomato sector is affected.
  • Work is underway to determine the most appropriate longer-term measures to manage the situation.


TomatoesNZ AGM & covered crop sessions for growers at the Horticulture conference, 5th August 2021, Mystery Creek

From 8.30am – 12pm at the Horticulture conference on Thursday 5th August we will be running research and technical sessions for greenhouse tomato and vegtable growers as follows:

  • Pest management using biocontrol in your greenhouse – a journey from investigation, selection, trials, and practice – presented by Emiliano Veronesi, Chris Thompson, Chris Cowie and Andrew Hutchinson
  • Practical advice on greenhouse hygiene measures
  • Energy options for the greenhouse industry – presented by EECA & DETA Consulting
  • Developing farm environment plans for greenhouse growers – presented by Andrew Barber

The Horticulture conference runs over two days and this year the theme is “Resilience and Recovery”.    You can check out the full programme here: https://conferences.co.nz/hortnz2021/programme/

The TomatoesNZ Inc AGM will be held at 4.15pm on Thursday 5th August 2021 at the conference.  TomatoesNZ are again offering funding support to members who wish to attend our AGM and the conference.  Places for this are limited and if you would like to attend please contact us to confirm arrangements prior to registering at: https://conferences.co.nz/hortnz2021/


Covered cropping decarbonisation pathway

We are pleased to confirm work has started on mapping out a plan for our sector to improve energy efficiency and transition to low emission fuels.  This is being undertaken by DETA consulting, an engineering firm that specialises in energy management in New Zealand and has experience working with greenhouse growers. 

The scope of this work includes reviewing research and technology applications that have been done and assessing the energy usage in greenhouse operational processes to establish energy and carbon baselines by fuel type.  Segmentation will be done to then look at the opportunities by crop, location, etc, for further evaluation.  The outputs of the plan will include a sector baseline, transition options, and an implementation plan that may include site decarbonisation assessments, technology demonstrations and optimisation projects.  Resources will also be developed to support grower best practice and decision-making tools.

It is expected the plan will be completed for review by late August/early September and we look forward to updating further on this.   This work is being supported with funding from EECA.