Using virus resistant varieties: Pros and Cons

Pros and Cons of using virus-resistant cultivars

The brown virus, also known as Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus (ToBRFV), is a significant concern for tomato plants. This highly contagious virus primarily affects tomato crops, causing severe economic losses in the agricultural industry. The virus induces distinctive symptoms such as brown discoloration and wrinkling of the fruit, as well as mosaic patterns on leaves. Infected plants may experience stunted growth and reduced yield. The brown virus spreads rapidly through direct contact, contaminated tools, or via insect vectors. ToBRFV poses a considerable threat to global tomato production, and strict quarantine measures and preventative strategies are essential to mitigate its impact. The most effective way to protect against this virus is by using resistant cultivars. 

Virus-resistant seeds play a crucial role in safeguarding agricultural crops against viral infections. These seeds are genetically modified or selectively bred to possess specific traits that enable them to resist or tolerate viral attacks. By incorporating resistance genes from naturally resistant plant varieties, scientists have developed seeds that can effectively combat a wide range of viruses. When planted, these seeds give rise to plants with heightened immunity, minimizing the risk of infection and reducing crop losses. Virus-resistant seeds offer numerous benefits, including improved crop productivity, reduced reliance on chemical pesticides, and enhanced food security. They provide farmers with a sustainable and cost-effective solution to combat viral diseases, ensuring a more resilient and productive agricultural system. Additionally, these seeds contribute to the overall health and stability of ecosystems by reducing the spread of viruses and their impact on both cultivated and wild plant species.

The benefit of the virus-resistant seeds and cultivars is clear! You can grow tomatoes again and you can be certain that you won't lose your entire crop to the virus. But everything is not going to be as easy as it might sound. 

You have a completely new genetic in your greenhouse. It might look like the Capmari or the Beef that you are familiar with but under the hood, this plant is different and therefore, it will behave differently. Everything that you know about steering the crop and the expected yield and taste and brix etc, is going to be irrelevant. You need to study your plant and learn how it works all over again. 

The seed companies were under tremendous pressure by large growers to develop resistant cultivars. The entire industry was at risk and they could not wait for a decade for all these elements to be fully known. So what does that mean for you dear grower? It means that you are back at square one and you need to read your plant as if it is your first time working with it. 

And that is where digitizing technologies and AI can help. You can use robots and sensors to rapidly catalogue plant growth and build correlations to climate settings, irrigation, nutrition, light level, pest and disease outbreaks and level of crop work much faster. Instead of spending five seasons to fully understand the new plant and be its master, you might be able to do it in two seasons with the help of these tools. 

So the moral of the story here is that along with new seeds you just bought, you need to also invest in technologies that can accelerate your understanding and help you fully optimize this new genetics you just introduced to your facility. 

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