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Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus TSWV

Quick Facts
Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus is caused by a virus in the Tospovirus family. Both Western Flower Thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis) and Onion Thrips (Thrips tabaci) vector TSWV. TSWV is able to infect more than 900 species of plants. Since 1998, TSWV has become a major issue for tomato growers and greenhouse operators. Once a host is infected, there are no curative measures for TSWV. TSWV is closely related to Impatiens Necrotic Spot Virus (INSV)

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Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus has become a key disease consideration in propagating greenhouse and field tomatoes and peppers. TWSV is vectored by six species of thrips, the Western Flower Thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis) and Onion Thrips (Thrips tabaci) being the two most common. The recent shift to softer pesticide chemistries does not offer the same high level of control of thrips that the organophosphate chemicals provided; therefore, thrips are more common in greenhouse and field operations and transmission of TWSV is more likely to occur.

Symptom appearance and severity differs depending upon the age of a plant at time of infection. Plants infected when young will be stunted with a weak appearance and contain necrotic and irregular shaped leaves (Figure 1).

Tomato Spotted Wilt (TSWV) was first described in 1919 and in 1989 was divided into TSWV-L strain and TSWV-I strain (impatiens strain). Between 1989 and 1992, these two strains of TSWV were determined to be serologically different and their names were changed to Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus (TSWV=TSWV-L strain), which infects tomato and pepper primarily, and Impatiens necrotic spot virus (INSV=TSWV-I strain), which infects impatiens and many other ornamental plants.

Photograph Courtesy: Sherman V. Thomson

Figure 1. Healthy tomato plant (left). Stunted and weak tomato plant with necrotic and irregular shaped leaves (right)

Plants infected when older have symptoms that mimic those induced by Curly Top Virus by having purple veins on leaflets and chlorotic

interveinal tissue, also foliage may have purple to brown specks or ringspot and leaflet margins may curl upwards (toward adaxial surface). The distinguishing symptom that separates TSWV infections from those of curly top is the presence of necrotic purple to brown stem lesions (Figure 2).

Figure 3. Ringspot pattern on Anaheim pepper (top), ripe tomato (middle), and both immature and mature fruit (bottom).

Causal Agent:
Figure 2. Leaflet from TSWV infected tomato plant showing necrotic speckling on upper surface, leaf curling and prominent purple veins (top). Diagnostic necrotic stem lesions on infected tomato (middle) and pepper (bottom).

Plants infected when young may not set fruit, but fruit that does set on infected plants will be a pale shade of their normal color with lighter colored splotches or ringspot patterns. Severely infected fruit is distorted with necrotic ringspot patterns and uneven formation of fruit (Figure 3).

TSWV is virus in the family Bunyaviridae and genus Tospovirus. Viruses in this genus are characterized as having ssRNA (single stranded Ribonucleic Acid) genomic material encapsulated by a multi-protein coat. TSWV is persistent within the thrips vectors as with most other Tospoviruses,. Juvenile thrips that feed on an infected plant can acquire the virus, but are not able to transmit TSWV until their second instar and adult stages. The persistent nature of TSWV within thrips is such that once the thrips has acquired the virus, it can transmit the virus throughout its life. Conflicting reports exist if TSWV is transmitted with seed.

There are no chemical or cultural controls for infected plants; therefore, it is essential that steps be taken to safeguard against introduction of TSWV. Greenhouse operations should not grow transplants in houses that previously contained ornamentals, especially if they were infected with TSWV. A rigorous monitoring and control program for thrips is recommended and where

possible, placement of filter screens on air intake vents to prevent entry of thrips. Infected plants should be removed and destroyed promptly. Keeping the greenhouse weed free will also aid by reducing alternate feeding host for thrips and potential reservoirs for TSWV. Commercial field operations are advised to inspect transplants and not accept those with ringspots or symptomatic foliage. Whenever possible, tomato and pepper fields should not be planted adjacent to greenhouses in which TSWV susceptible plants are grown.

Information compiled and presented by: Scott C. Ockey M.S. / Senior Research Associate Sherman V. Thomson Ph.D. / Extension Plant Pathologist Emeritus
Listing of commercial products implies no endorsement by the authors or the Utah State Cooperative Extension Service. Criticism of products not listed is neither implied nor intended. Persons using such products are responsible for their use according to the current label directions of the manufacturer. Pesticide labels are legal documents, and it is a violation of federal and state laws to use a pesticide inconsistent with its labeling. The pesticide applicator is legally responsible for its proper use. Always read and follow the label.

Questions for Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus samples and survey

Grower Information Name: Address: Farm Location: Crop Information: Origin of transplants: Is a greenhouse or floral establishment near effected field: yes/no Plant and Variety: Irrigation type and frequency: Fertilization and pesticide applications: Fertilizer (units applied): Insecticide applications: Insecticide Name: Target Pest(s): Fungicide applications: Fungicide Name: Target Pest(s): Neighboring farms with host plants: yes/no Are neighboring farms experiencing same disease: yes/no Percent crop loss: Recent environmental conditions experienced at affected location: