A viral disease with potentially devastating impact has reached Hawaiʻi, and there is no vaccine to afford protection.
The ailment is Tomato Yellow Leaf Curl and its victim could be Hawaiʻi’s $10-million-a-year tomato industry.
Scientists in the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources discovered the virus on Maui and Oʻahu in November 2009. Present in many regions where tomatoes are grown, the disease is particularly destructive in tropical and subtropical regions, sometimes causing total crop loss.
The disease is spread by sweetpotato and biotype B whiteflies. While not transmitted by seed or equipment, long-distance spread can occur when humans move infected plant material or the wind disperses infected flies.
Some plants, such as eggplant, potato, pepper and even common weeds, can be infected without showing symptoms. Counter measures involve control of whiteflies and use of virus-resistant varieties.