Do your tomatoes have brown or yellow spots? Do they look lumpy? Are the leaves mottled and narrow? It may be a relatively new viral disease called brown rugose. Rugose means lumpy or wrinkled.
Easily mistaken for chemical overspray, brown rugose is a close cousin to tobacco mild green mosaic and often occurs in tandem with the pepino mosaic virus (PepMV). First seen in 2015 in Jordan, the tomato brown rugose fruit virus (ToBRFV) infects eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes. By 2018, it had reached Europe and North America.
Symptoms of brown rugose
In addition to lumpy, spotted, wrinkled fruit, the brown rugose virus also causes fruits to be deformed, ripen unevenly, or develop a brown inner wall. Leaves may become narrow and discolored. Shoestringing may occur in severe cases.
Mosaic patterns and stunting are common. Brown streaking and dead areas may also develop on leaf stems (petioles), flower stems (pedicles), and calyxes (sepals).
Brown rugose management
This persistent virus spreads through contaminated garden tools, hands, seeds, weeds, global grocery store and seedling markets, and local pollinators. With all of those avenues of transmission, quarantining new plants and good sanitation are your best control measures. Also, only install seeds certified to be ToBRFV-free and do not use grocery store tomato seeds. These viruses can survive in the soil for more than ten years, so it is better to err on the side of caution.
If you suspect brown rugose in your garden, do yourself and your neighbors a favor and contact your local County Extension Office.
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