Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus Prevalent on Tomato & Pepper this Spring

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Tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV) appears to be more prevalent on tomato  crops in central and western North Carolina this year. The incidence of TSWV varies from year to year based on survival of the thrips vector. Be on the lookout for symptoms of this virus. On tomato, TSWV most commonly appears as bronzing of the leaves which eventually turn dark brown or purplish in color. On pepper leaves, the virus may appear as speckling or necrotic flecks and/or chlorotic ring spots. Plants may also wilt or be stunted. Fruit may have chlorotic ring spots and be deformed.

If tomato or pepper seedlings are infected, they may die completely and the top will form a “shepherd’s crook” appearance.

Tomato spotted wilt virus on tomato leaf

Tomato spotted wilt virus on tomato leaf

TSWV Leaf Symptoms

TSWV Leaf Symptoms. K. Blaedow

Tomato spotted wilt virus on tomato fruit

Tomato spotted wilt virus on tomato fruit

Tomato spotted wilt virus on tomato seedlings with "shepherds crook" appearance

Tomato spotted wilt virus on tomato seedlings with “shepherds crook” appearance

Tomato spotted wilt virus on pepper leaf

Tomato spotted wilt virus on pepper leaf. NC State PDIC

The virus is vectored by several species of thrips, but western flower thrips (WFT) and tobacco thrips are the two most important vectors in North Carolina. WFT populations have been very high this season and appear to be a key vector, especially of secondary spread within fields. The virus is acquired only during the larval stage, but persists in the thrips and is transmitted as an adult.

Once a plant is infected, there is no cure, but the grower can deploy strategies to minimize this virus in future years. The most effective management strategy is the combined use of insecticides to manage the larval stage, reflective mulches in the field, and deployment of resistant varieties. Unfortunately management can be challenging due to limited options for effective chemical control of WFT, and the potential for host plant resistance-breaking strains of TSWV. To date, resistance-breaking strains have not been detected in North Carolina.

If you think you have TSWV on your plants, reach out to your local county horticulture agent to confirm.

Karen Blaedow, Henderson County Horticulture Agent, is a contributing author on this pest alert.