The Federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has advised industry about an emerging risk for Australian tomato, capsicum and chilli production: tomato brown rugose fruit virus.


The first outbreak of tomato brown rugose fruit virus (ToBRFV) was reported on tomatoes in Israel in 2014. Since then, it’s been reported in Jordan, Mexico, Germany, the United States, Italy and Northern Palestine. It hasn’t been detected in Australia and isn’t currently considered to be present.

ToBRFV is a member of the Tobamovirus genus. These viruses are generally seed-borne, can remain viable in seeds for months, and are known to be associated with the seed coat and endosperm. Other viruses in this genus include quarantine pests like cucumber green mottle mosaic virus and zucchini green mottle mosaic virus.

The virus results in unmarketable produce and can break plant disease resistance, so the Department believes that any incursion could have a relatively high economic impact.

ToBRFV is transmitted through propagation materials like seeds, plants for planting and cuttings, and can also be transmitted locally through contact (such as by plant-to-plant contact or contact with contaminated tools or clothing).

It’s known to naturally infect tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) and members of the Capsicum annuum complex. Australian industries that are potentially at risk include tomato, capsicum and chilli production.

If ToBRFV were to enter Australia, control options would be limited, and control measures would likely rely on the destruction of infected material and strict hygiene measures.

For more information on ToBRFV and descriptions of its symptoms in affected plants, take a look at the European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization website.

Proposed action

The Department is introducing emergency measures to reduce the likelihood of introducing ToBRFV into Australia.

Australia currently requires PCR testing of imported and capsicum seeds for several pathogens. An adjustment of this testing regime to include ToBRFV is currently being considered and there is work being done to identify an appropriate diagnostic protocol and seed testing regime.

An implementation plan and schedule for introducing these emergency measures is being developed. Stakeholder consultation and a notification to trading partners will be part of this process.

At this stage, we encourage you to familiarise yourself with the symptoms of tomato brown rugose fruit virus and to ensure your farm has strong biosecurity practices in place.

We’ll share any further information from the Department as it becomes available.

This post appeared in the AUSVEG Weekly Update published 26 February 2019. Subscribe to the Update using our online form to receive the latest industry news in your inbox every week!