PELION – Tomato brown rugose fruit virus can wreak havoc on tomato and pepper crops and the Clemson Cooperative Extension Service wants to help South Carolina growers learn what they can do to protect their plants.

Vegetable growers can learn about diseases, insects and weeds during the Clemson Extension Spring Vegetable Production Meeting Feb. 27 at Pelion High School.

Tips on growing healthy vegetables will be given during the Clemson Extension Spring Vegetable Production Meeting Feb. 27 at Pelion High School.
Image Credit: Clemson Public Service and Agriculture

Although this disease has not yet been detected in South Carolina, it has been found in the United States. Tony Keinath, a plant pathologist from the Clemson Coastal Research and Education Center in Charleston will talk about the virus during the Clemson Extension 2020 Spring Vegetable Production Meeting, Feb. 27 at Pelion High School.

In addition to Keinath’s presentation, Steven Long, assistant director of regulatory services for the Clemson Department of Plant Industry, will be on hand to talk about the disease from a regulatory standpoint. Other speakers include Matt Cutulle, a weed specialist from the Clemson Coastal REC, who will give an update on weed control and Stormy Sparks, an entomologist from the University of Georiga, who will discuss mite management and diamondback moth caterpillar pressure.

The evening gets underway with dinner at 6 p.m. Cost is $5, payable at the door. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. Attendees will receive three pesticide credits. Please RSVP by Monday, Feb. 24 to Alivia Gunter, (803) 359-8515 or aliviag@clemson.edu. Pelion High School is located at 600 Lydia Drive, Pelion, S.C. 29123.

“This meeting is a great opportunity for tomato and pepper growers to learn about the tomato brown rugose fruit virus so that they can be ready if the virus does make its way to South Carolina,” said Justin Ballew, a Clemson commercial horticulture agent in Lexington and Saluda counties and meeting organizer. “It also is a great opportunity for growers to learn about insect and weed control.”

Information from the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) in November 2019 shows the tomato brown rugose fruit virus was first reported in tomatoes in Israel in 2014. Since then, it has been reported in China, Mexico, Italy, Greece, the United Kingdom, Jordan, Turkey, as well as the Netherlands. It also was reported in Germany where it was eradicated. The virus was detected and eradicated from a California tomato greenhouse in 2018. It is spread through the use of contaminated tools and hands in addition to plant-to-plant contact. Restrictions have been placed on imports of fresh tomato and pepper fruit from countries where the virus has been found. 

Tomato and pepper are two main hosts of the virus. Symptoms include bubbling and mosaic on leaves of susceptible pepper, and fern leaf and mosaic on tomato leaves. Fruit symptoms include smaller fruit size with a rough surface, fruit drop, delay in ripening and fruit discoloration including blotching, pale color and/or brown necrotic spots. Infected tomato fruits can be unmarketable or reduced in quality. Necrosis also can occur on susceptible pepper fruit. More than $2.3 billion of tomatoes and peppers are produced in the United States annually.

Other activities scheduled for this spring in Lexington County include a Private Pesticide Applicator Training and Exam from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., March 5 at the Lexington County Clemson Extension Office, 605 W. Main St., Suite F, Lexington, S.C. 29072.  Training topics will include pesticide safety, record keeping, calibration, pesticide storage, container disposal and more. Licensed applicators may attend and receive three recertification credits. Cost is $100 per person, $45 for licensed applicators. Registration deadline is March 2. For additional information or to register, E-mail Alivia Gunter at aliviag@clemson.edu, or call the Lexington County Clemson Extension Office at (803) 359-8515.

For other Clemson Extension Events across South Carolina, go to www.bit.ly/ClemsonExtensionEvents.

-END-