October 26, 2022 – ToBRFV, or Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus, is a seed-borne virus that affects plants in the Solanaceae family, most notably tomatoes and peppers. The virus, first discovered in 2014, can render fruit unmarketable, leaving wrinkly spots, or rugose, on the fruit, and impacting the appearance of the leaves. The virus is highly transmissible and is categorized as a quarantine pest in North American Plant Protection Organization (NAPPO) member countries: Mexico, the United States and Canada.
Currently, there are no treatments for ToBRFV and sources of genetic resistance have yet to be discovered. Pest management practices include cultural controls, like strict sanitation and, most importantly, sourcing virus-free seed.
According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), Canada produced 256,361 metric tonnes of greenhouse tomatoes in 2020, with a total farm gate value of $665.9 million and most production (71%) taking place in Ontario (AAFC, 2020). Although tomatoes are produced here in Canada, most seed for commercial production is imported. ToBRFC has been confirmed in the United States and Mexico and off the continent in Italy, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan, and Turkey (ASTA, 2022).
With the movement of the pest being strictly controlled in North America, there is a significant threat to Canada’s horticulture industry. While developers are looking at techniques to control the virus’ impact, NAPPO members are working on harmonizing diagnostic protocols to alleviate delays and reduce testing costs to facilitate trade. The ToBRFV testing project aims to evaluate the molecular diagnostic protocols used in different jurisdictions to develop a NAPPO standard protocol to evaluate seed in the future.
The project is ongoing, with a highly coordinated team of experts from across the continent working together in various subgroups. Canada is participating with four representatives from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and one from industry (Lauren Comin, Seeds Canada), serving on the expert group.
Updates on the project will be provided to Seeds Canada members at the next Vegetable and Garden Seed Policy and Issues Committee Meeting in early 2023.
Crop Profile for Greenhouse Tomato in Canada, 2020 (2020) Agriculture and Agrifood Canada. A118-10-24-2020-eng.pdf (publications.gc.ca)
Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus (ToBRFV): Q&A on the new Tobamovirus (Accessed 2022-10-20) American Seed Trade Association QA-ToBRFV.pdf (hortcouncil.ca)
Author: Lauren Comin, Seeds Canada Regulatory Affairs Manager
Seeds Canada is the leading voice of the seed sector in Canada, with members including analysts, breeders, distributors, processors, seed growers and other contributors to the industry, located from coast to coast. Seed is the vital first link in the agriculture value chain, contributing over $6 billion to the economy, employing more than 63,000 Canadians, and exporting more than $700 million annually.