Spotted Wilt Virus Light This Season on Tomatoes

Thrips Widespread But Yields are High

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Spotted wilt virus on tomatoes was a big concern at the beginning of the season. California Ag Today spoke with Tom Turini, vegetable crops farm advisor for the University of California Cooperative Extension in Fresno County, about the topic. We caught up with him on the west side of Fresno County. He said despite the potential virus pressure, tomato yields have been very high this year.

“Thrips are the vector of tomato spotted wilt, and while the thrip distribution is much wider than it was last year, it doesn’t look like we’re seeing the level of economic damage,” Turini said.

Tom Turini

“We had had concerns initially about problems, and of course that could get worse as we get later in the season, but so far our yields have been very, very high,” Turini said.

He explained that the strong yields is in part due to the mild temperatures during the spring, so there was good early fruit set. “Even that, I would expect that now with these higher temperatures over the last six weeks, we’re going to start seeing the effects of the yield-robbing virus with a later harvest, he said.

Last year, the concern was with fresh market tomatoes.

“We had concerns late last year in the fresh market, but this year it’s at moderate levels of economic impact. “It doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen in the future, but at this point, it looks like we were spared, at least for the early season crop.

Fresno County Crop Value Drops to $6.43 Billion

For the first time in history, Fresno County has two $1 billion crops, and for the first time in 11 years, grapes are not the #1 crop. Now almonds are the top crop produced in Fresno County with a value of $1.1 billion, with grapes coming in second at $1.03 billion. However, despite these highlights, Fresno County crop value in 2013  was $6.436 billion in gross production—a decrease of 2.28 percent of 2012.

Fresno Ag Commissioner Les Wright
Fresno Ag Commissioner Les Wright

As it stands now, Fresno County loses it’s #1 position as top agricultural county in the nation, dropping behind Tulare County, which recently announced a $7.8 billion 2013 crop year. It could get worse when Kern County releases their report in August.

“Much of the decrease can be attributed to the shortage of water,” said Les Wright, Fresno County Ag Commissioner. “The impacts of drought began to show on our 2012 crop report with decrease of 2.29 percent from 2011. Producers are feeling the affects of the water shortage more in 2014 than in the previous two yeas.”

Water shortages in Fresno County with a large part of the West Side dependent on both state and federal surface water deliveries have meant the annual crop report’s gross value of production has dropped three years in a row.

Details of the 2013 report include an increase of fresh vegetable production in 2013 by 3.8 percent in value led by garlic and fresh market tomatoes, while livestock and poultry decreased in value by more than 16 percent.

Field crops, representing barley, wheat, corn silage, cotton an alfalfa declined nearly 42 percent, while fruit and nut crops increased more than 8 percent.

Wright noted that Fresno County growers exported nearly 26,000 shipments to 99 different countries. “This tells us that we are still feeding the world,” said Wright.

“Once we get water back, we are going to see our ag economy rebound,” said Wright. “Just give the farmers water and they will do the rest.”