Resistance is important as the fight against ToBRFV continues, but other traits such as taste, shelf-life, colour and yield are also crucial given retail and consumer preferences

Enza Zaden tomatoes

Two major themes stand out when it comes to the tomato category, according to seed specialist Enza Zaden. These are the emergence of Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus (ToBRFV) and its impact on the sector, and the way retail trends are reshaping the category. The former has brought about significant challenges, testing the adaptability and resilience of the tomato industry worldwide.

Mari Carmen Manjon, sales manager Iberia at Enza Zaden, says that the virus represents a considerable threat to all agents in the chain, from production to postharvest quality. “At Enza Zaden, we’ve led the innovation charge with the development of High Resistance (HREZ) varieties and rootstock, providing an effective solution to combat this threat,” she explains.

Enza Zaden’s growers have been instrumental in the fight against ToBRFV, Manjon notes, implementing enhanced phytosanitary measures and adjusting cultivation practices, such as modifying planting dates and shortening harvest cycles, to safeguard their crops. Despite these concerted efforts, the battle against widespread infections of ToBRFV remains “formidable”, which underscores the need for a united and robust response from the entire industry, with the group taking a collaborative approach.

“In parallel, our commitment extends beyond disease resistance to embracing sustainability, including the development of varieties more resilient to abiotic stress and suitable for organic cultivation,” she tells Fresh Focus Tomato. “These innovations align with our mission to support the industry’s adaptation to environmental challenges and shifting consumer preferences for sustainable products.”

Manjon comments that Enza Zaden was a pioneer in the field of ToBRFV, being the first to bring HREZ varieties to the market, addressing the virus with “a unique hypersensitivity reaction”. This mechanism prevents the virus from multiplying within the plant and blocks ToBRFV’s spread under normal virus conditions, taking a significant step towards long-term eradication.

“Our rapid development and offering of a comprehensive programme and an extensive assortment of varieties with High Resistance have addressed the sector’s urgent needs in record time,” she continues. “This approach not only mitigates the immediate threat posed by ToBRFV but also underscores our commitment to the tomato industry’s sustainability and the health of the food supply chain.

“It’s important to note that HREZ does not equate to immunity. We continue to encourage growers to implement robust phytosanitary measures alongside adopting HREZ varieties and rootstocks to limit the virus’s spread effectively. Our introduction of HREZ rootstock represents the next level of innovation, adding a critical defence layer by blocking ToBRFV at the root level and contributing to the plant’s overall resistance.”

This is an extract from an interview in the upcoming Fresh Focus Tomato special, produced ahead of the Global Tomato Congress, which takes place on 14-15 May at the Fokker Terminal, The Hague