Resistant variety from BASF/Nunhems is being trialled by major UK producers and could prove a valuable addition as growers navigate threat of ToBRFV

BASF believes Vitalion could offer growers a safer alternative to Piccolo

BASF believes Vitalion could offer growers a less risky alternative. Photo: BASF

International vegetable breeder BASF/Nunhems believes it has taken an important step in the fight against ToBRFV with the launch of a highly resistant new cherry vine tomato called Vitalion.

The F1 hybrid is one of four new tomato varieties from the breeder with resistance to the devastating pathogen. The other three are Azovian, Blindon and Cabosur – all ‘saladette’ types.

There is currently a big push to bring through rugose-resistant varieties internationally, with BASF saying 2023 has been the busiest year in tomato breeding for 30-40 years.

ToBRFV has ripped through tomato greenhouses internationally since it was first discovered in Israel in 2014. And according to BASF customer marketing specialist Nasir Ahmed, Vitalion could be a pivotal new variety since it will allow producers of cherry tomatoes on the vine to guard against the pathogen.

He argues that some other leading varieties in the segment lack resistance to ToBRFV, meaning that by continuing to produce them, growers are taking a risk. Vitalion, thanks to its high resistance and quality, could be a good substitute, he says.

Crucially, Vitalion also offers high Brix, high yields, good shelf life, and strong scores in appearance, according to BASF.

Nevertheless, Ahmed confirmed that several major tomato producers in Britain are trialling Vitalion, and BASF hopes to sell seed to producers in the UK and the Netherlands – for tomato production in the summer of 2024.

Certain major UK supermarkets are understood to be open to stocking Vitalion as an additional alternative.

Commercial production of Vitalion began commercially in Spain and Portugal this year, with over 100ha of the variety currently under production in Europe – for supply this winter.