ToBRFV in Tomato Plants

by Dr. Yaniv Rotem – Solanaceae Pathologist, Hazera


General background

The Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus – ToBRFV – is a relatively new viral disease, first appearing in the Middle East in 2014. The disease has since spread rapidly to many other areas in the world, and currently constitutes a major global problem in tomato crop production worldwide.

In Israel, all tomato production areas have been severely affected by ToBRFV, and the effects of the disease are evident both in the tomato greenhouses and fields, and in the quality and appearance of the fruits which are sold.


Symptoms of the disease

As a rule, the symptoms of the disease are similar to the typical symptoms of ToMV, but the severity of the symptoms can differ from that known with ToMV:

  • In the leaves – a mosaic appears, which is particularly noticeable on young leaves and at the growth vertices. In some cases, there is narrowing of the leaflet blade, and in certain cases the leaves become entirely threadlike (“shoestrings”).
  • In the fruit – yellow spots develop which become necrotic at a later stage. In some cases, “chocolate spots” appear on the fruit. In cases of severe damage, the fruit becomes wrinkled and distorted. The virus name (“Brown Rugose Fruit”) was given due to the wrinkled appearance together with the brown spots.
  • Note that in contrast to the characteristic situation when affected by ToMV, in which symptoms generally appear in the fruit only in cases of particularly severe damage to the foliage, in the case of ToBRFV – there is no connection between the severity of damage to the fruit and severity of damage to the foliage: there are situations in which serious damage to the fruit is observed while no symptoms appear on the leaves, or vice versa – cases of severe symptoms in the foliage and lack of symptoms in the fruit.
  • In certain cases – necrosis develops of the calyx of the fruit, the fruit peduncle, and the central spine of the cluster of fruit.
  • When a susceptible variety is infected with ToBRFV, the main damage is a significant weakening of the plant and its capability to produce clusters of fruits over a long season.

In the wake of the viral infection, tomato cultivation in Israel has changed entirely: due to the weakening of the plants, growers currently have almost no possibility to grow tomatoes in a long central season of 9-10 months as was customary before the virus’s appearance; instead, shorter growing seasons of 4-5 months are now customary, intended for harvesting a few clusters only.


Symptoms on leaves – severe mosaic and narrowing of some of the leaf lobes, to the point of appearing “thready”


Severe symptoms in the fruits

Symptoms of necrosis in the calyx, fruit peduncle and the spine of the cluster

Weakening of the plant as a result of viral infection in a susceptible variety (on right) compared to a variety that is largely similar to it but is resistant to the virus (on left).


How is the disease transmitted?

  • ToBRFV is very easily transmitted mechanically – by human contact, by work tools, support wires, or any entity that comes in physical contact with an infected plant or soil that contains the virus and later comes in contact with healthy plants. It is important to remember that particles of this virus are particularly resistant to environmental conditions, and are capable of surviving for long periods in soil or on infected surfaces.
  • Since the virus is capable of surviving in soil for a long period – the virus is also transferred with infected soil that is moved from one place to another (by sticking to shoes, to work tools that are moved from one plot to another, etc.).
  • The virus is transmitted in seeds – a seed produced from an infected plant is likely to carry virus particles on its surface.
  • The virus can also be transmitted by bumble bees, which serve to pollinate during the cultivation process.


Prevention and treatment

  • Since the outbreak of the disease, Hazera together with Limagrain Group have been working on a comprehensive study of the issue, in which tomato varieties with intermediate levels of resistance to the virus were developed. The first patent in the world for resistance to ToBRFV was registered by Limagrain in 2017. Using these varieties provides an optimal solution for growing tomatoes in conditions of infections with ToBRFV, while maintaining the varieties performance.
  • Observing phytosanitary rules is key to preventing the disease:
    • Making sure to have clean clothes, jackets and gloves for those entering the greenhouses.
    • Making sure to sterilize all equipment used.
    • Sterilizing shoes in an immersion pit upon entrance to the greenhouse.
    • Being strict about the order in which buildings are entered – the workday begins with the buildings housing the young, healthy plants and continues to the buildings housing the more mature plants.
  • Plants in which infection is discovered should be immediately removed from the greenhouse, being careful to avoid contact with neighboring plants.
  • Using healthy seeds and seedlings is another key to preventing the disease. Hazera is strict about performing health tests in licensed laboratories, according to international standards and the Plant Protection Services. Checking that seeds are free of ToBRFV is done by the ISHI Protocol, which is the international protocol accepted throughout the world.
  • Being strict about good sanitization – sterilizing the soil or growth medium and the greenhouse space when cultivation is completed.



New Deputy CEO of Hazera: “It is like a Marathon run, and we want to finish first!”

Since May 19th   2022, Ofer Peleg is the new Deputy CEO of Hazera. He will lead sales, supply chain, production and IT. “We have great ‘DNA’ in Hazera, but also opportunities and potential to become a well-integrated company and realize solid and robust processes.”

Ofer, fifty years old, lives near Tel Aviv, together with his wife and three children, aged 21, 18 and 13. He is used to work for several leading  companies in multicultural and dynamic environments. “I started as an industrial engineer in the pharma industry, and stayed there for about twenty years. At Teva pharmaceuticals, the Israeli global generic leader, I served in various positions in both R&D and Operations, where my last role was to manage three large facilities in Europe, for that role I moved with my family to Amsterdam for two years. After that I became vice-president of the Global supply chain at Sun pharmaceuticals , a global Indian pharma company. In the last four years I was the vice-president of the Global supply chain at Netafim, a global leader in precision irrigation. “At Netafim I focused on the same customers and ambition as Hazera; helping farmers to get the best out of their crops for both quantity and quality.”

Go the extra mile
“I got a very warm welcome, both at Hazera and Limagrain, there is a strong sense of partnership. The people I have met enjoy their profession and are very enthusiastic, willing to go above and beyond  to serve our customers. They know that by doing so, they are making the world a better place. Shortly after I started at Hazera, I was lucky to meet many of my colleagues at the annual Limagrain conference in Prague.

Marathon run

“I just started my learning, there is a huge knowhow and great professionalism here” says Ofer. But our competitors are not waiting for us, and we have to be agile, flexible and focus on quality. We can’t stop, not even for a minute; we are running a marathon and we want to finish first. There is also an opportunity for becoming a well-integrated company and realizing solid and robust processes.”

Way of working
“We produce seeds all over the world; How can we do this as efficient as possible? What is our optimal footprint?, How to optimize our inventory?  How can we  leverage our capabilities?  In my former positions I have helped answering similar kinds of questions. I’m looking forward to share my experience and contribute to Hazera.”

High quality and high yield, the golden combination for Hazera onions

Hazera, part of Limagrain Group, is a specialist in the development, production and marketing of onion seed. The breeders have been working on strong varieties of excellent quality since the 1950s. The distribution of new, improved onion varieties is a slow process that can sometimes take more than 25 years. It is therefore important to have a good vision of what the market needs. What are the trends?


“For years the focus within the company has been on breeding and cultivation in the local markets, but since 2008, when Hazera was formed in its current form, there has been a complete global focus,” said Reinout de Heer, Global Product Manager Allium. “Onions are sensitive to day length. The length of the day determines the moment of bulb formation of the onion. Different varieties are therefore more or less suitable for cultivation per day length zone; from short day onions to extra long day onions. Due to the global focus, development programs and knowledge can be combined. This has given the worldwide cultivation, production and sale of high-quality onion seed a significant boost.”

More sales opportunities
Onions are a daily ingredient in the kitchen for many people worldwide. And although an onion is not sold at variety level in the supermarket. There you just buy a yellow, white, pink or red onion. The variety is important to the growers. Pablo Salgado, Onion Breeder: “They are focussing on disease resistance, skin quality, firmness and yield. Hazera is constantly working on innovations in this area in order to achieve the best onion with the highest yield for growers, processors and buyers. An example is the development of varieties that are suitable for multiple processing options, so that the grower has more possibilities in terms of sales opportunities.”

Semiagro, Peru: “The Peruvian onion market has grown thanks to the fantastic work of the collaboration between Semiagro and Hazera. With 17,500 hectares of planted cultivation area, the onion crop is positioned as the highest-producing vegetable in the Peruvian market.
The national consumption of pink onions represents 83% and 17% for the export market (mainly granex for the US). In addition, the conditions for the onion grower have improved, the possibilities for the national and export potential market for wholesalers have increased and the consumer has access to better quality onions.”

Superior material
Semiagro and Hazera have been working together for more than two decades on the development of hybrid onion varieties in Peru. Today, the Sivan F1 is the leading variety on the market and is recognized throughout the chain for its characteristics: excellent post-harvest, good skin retention, beautiful color and thin necks.

There are already promising trials for early onions. Year after year we see superior material from 3 new varieties (10414, 10416 and 10417), the result of 19 years of trials.”

Harvesting by machine
Within the yellow short day onions segment, the trend is to produce more uniform round onions. A change that is necessary, because manual harvesting and processing is becoming too expensive. Pablo: “By making sure the onions are more uniform and round, they can be harvested and sorted more easily by machine. Maintaining qualities such as firmness, skin retenation and disease resistance is very important.”

Dean Pye, Pye Produce harvesting Rhinestone onions in Canterbury 13 March 2019
Copyright photo © Steve McArthur /

Golden combination
In New Zealand and the Netherlands, many onions are destined for export. Reinout: “The onions must also remain of high quality during and after transport. Skin retention and firmness are important elements for good quality onions. In addition, the net yield must be good. As a grower you can get a high yield from the field, but in the end you get paid for the yield upon delivery. Excellent quality and high net yield is the golden combination.

Steve McArthur – Vigour, New Zealand: “Ten years ago, the New Zealand onion industry was upgraded with the first large-scale planting of the Dutch-bred onion, Rhinestone. The onion yield for the growers has increased by more than 10% since then. Rhinestone leads the way in terms of reliability and quality, not only for growers, but also for others in the chain, such as exporters, packers and retailers.

Listening to local growers
Hazera’s breeders first listened to local growers. They created Rhinestone by combining local New Zealand genetics with the best genetics from other regions. The result: a hybrid with geographical adaptability, but also a long shelf life, high yield, great taste, firm bulbs and very good skin retention.

New Zealand plays an important role in filling the gap between the old and new season onions in Western Europe. Shipping onions for a journey across the equator for six to ten weeks requires an onion with many excellent qualities.
Rhinestone offers growers the certainty that they deliver quality to the other side of the world.

Climate and red onions
Other developments that Hazera is paying attention to are irrigation solutions and red onions. Pablo: “The climate is changing. We are conducting tests so that we can respond effectively to longer periods of drought or more precipitation.” Reinout continues: “And the market for red onions is growing. We are expanding our portfolio in all segments. Both in the short day and in the extra long day, with our latest introduction, for example, the Redrover. This extra long day red onion has a long shelf life and is very suitable for use in salads.”

Onion Sivan

New watermelon varieties offering solutions for the chain

In recent years we have witnessed various trends in the consumption of vegetables and fruits.
One of the most notable trends is in the watermelon category.

Not inconvenient anymore
Watermelon was long perceived as inconvenient. Especially with decreasing households, watermelons were found too big, giving too much waste and too heavy to carry. Also the lack of good taste and quality was a reason for people to buy other fruits. With the introduction of the high quality, high tasting seedless mini and midi watermelons, consumption is increasing rapidly, in some countries over 10% in the last 5 years. Watermelons are used as a healthy snack, during dinner or lunch or as refreshing drink.

3rd choice of consumers
Watermelon is gaining popularity worldwide staying in the top 5 of fresh consumed fruits globally. In the European Union watermelon is the 3rd choice of consumers as refreshment after apples and oranges. In USA watermelon is 3rd choice after bananas and apples. With the COVID pandemic people started to focus even more on health. Another push forward for watermelon consumption.


Yearround offering
Hazera’s global experience in the watermelon industry provides solutions that fit the needs of all partners in the fresh chain now and in the future through close collaboration. Due to our intensive breeding efforts we are able to offer year round, high quality, high tasting watermelons.

New launches in Spain
Hazera launched 3 new seedless watermelon varieties in Murcia, Spain targeted for the South European watermelon producers:
• Margay, a uniform, crunchy, great tasting midi watermelon with great feedback from Spanish retailers targeting 2 categories at the same time: fresh cut & fresh.
In the mini seedless category 2 novelties were highlighted for the Spanish production:
• 50037 a mini of 1.3-2.1 kg featuring excellent crunch and taste which was very well appreciated by retailers.
• Latest newcomer 50041 a nice, red round watermelon with excellent shelf life capacity is showing good results in both indoor in Almeria as well as the open field in Murcia.

Looking for more insights? Or curious on the solutions we can offer?
Contact us. We are happy to meet.

Mark van der Zouwen
Cucurbits Global Product Manager

Arjan van Steekelenburg
Chain Manager Fresh Produce

Yoav Levy
Cucurbits Regional Product Manager

Primed seeds: the next step in top quality onion growing

Hazera has been developing and selling primed onion seeds since 2009. This experience translates into the market as the share of primed seeds is increasing. Many growers are discovering the benefits. Primed seeds can ensure faster crop development after sowing, more uniformity in the crop and final product and better quality onions. That is why it is also interesting for you.

In short, seed priming is the process of activating the early stages of germination. After priming, the seed is sown and packed in the same way. Seedlings that have been primed will emerge faster and the position, will therefore, be more uniform. As the first germination stage between sowing and emergence is shorter, the seeds are less affected by weather influences.

Flexible sowing time
Adam Prabucki, Onion Product Manager says: “Climate change means we have to deal with extreme conditions in the field more often. Spring is getting shorter and it’s getting warmer much earlier. This means that the sowing period seems to be shorter. Because primed seeds are already in a further development stage, they germinate faster at low temperatures and the crop will be above the ground sooner and develop faster.”

Growth cycle
A big misconception is that you can harvest onions from primed seeds earlier. Adam says: “That’s not the case. The length of the day determines the growth cycle of onions. Priming the seeds does not affect the growth cycle, it remains the same. However, you can save costs by using primed seeds, because you need less seed for the same yield as with regular onion seed. Due to the controlled process of priming in the laboratory, the chance of germination is better. And due to the more uniform germination, the loss in the early stages of growth is also less. You can save up to 10% on seeds.”

Less plant damage
With primed seeds, the plants emerge more uniform. They are in the same stage of development and need the same treatment at the same time. This makes the weed control program easier to apply. This results in less plant damage. A clean field without weeds also means less damage to the bulbs, so better quality and storage potential. Due to the faster emergence, for example, there is also less chance of onion fly. And the optimum harvest time is easier to determine with uniform plants.

The advantages are great, although there are also some limitations. Adam says: ”We advise not to sow too late in the season as the soil dries up too quickly. If there are no options for irrigating, the primed seeds in a dried-up seedbed can die, because the connection with the deeper soil layers has not yet been reached. If onions sprout quicker, there may be too little water available for growth. This may lead to a lower plant population. It is also better not to store primed seeds for use in another year, as the growth cycle has already started.”

Contact with crop specialists
Hazera can supply primed seeds of all varieties. Our crop specialists are happy to advise on how these seeds can contribute to a successful high-quality harvest. They support and guide you with tailor-made advice, also during your cultivation.

Senior delegation from SEE region

Yesterday we had the honor to host a senior delegation from Hercegbosnia, Posavina & West Herzegovina Canton in Bosnia & Herzegovina in Hazera’s Headquarter in Israel.
During their visit we presented the company profile & activity, the germination laboratory & we had a tour in the Tomato demo greenhouse.
We had an open discussion regarding the vegetable seeds opportunities in the region & intentions for collaboration in the future.
Many thanks to Evelyn Rosenthal from MASHAV company for choosing Hazera as their choice as a Seed company model for this visit.

The Consular & Chargé d’Affaires a.i. of North Macedonia on a professional visit to Hazera

Yesterday we had the pleasure to host the Consular & Chargé d’Affaires a.i. of North Macedonia, Mr. Maciej Kaczorowski in Hazera’s IL HQ.
During the visit we presented our Seed’s Health laboratory and Tomato Demo greenhouse.
We discussed Agro-business opportunities & seed regulation in their country.
Many thanks to Mr. Shlomo Graziani, the Honorary consul of N. Macedonia in Israel for choosing Hazera to represent the agriculture industry in Israel.

Hazera’s Official Training Video: Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus (ToBRFV)

We are happy to present Hazera’s training video and sanitation guide for dealing with the new ToBRFV virus.

The purpose of this video is to assist growers and farmers to gain a better understanding of the ToBRFV virus, and to share some practical advice and active measures for eradicating the growth of this virus through the use of stringent hygiene and highly effective sanitation. Continue reading “Hazera’s Official Training Video: Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus (ToBRFV)”