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US: UH field testing virus resistant tomatoes

At Twin Bridge Farm in Waialua, they know how to grow tomatoes that are red, ripe and delicious. But they also know that it's a constant battle to beat back viruses that threaten their crops.

"Once they get to your crop, forget it! You've got nothing," co-owner Al Medrano said.

For years, Medrano and his business partner Milton Agader have fought the two viruses that plague tomato farmers in Hawaii, the Spotted Wilt Virus and the Yellow Leaf Curl Virus. Medrano calls them tomato killers.

"Yellow Leaf Curl you would have a fruit, but it's unmarketable. Spotted Wilt? Your plant tops die!" he said.

Neil Ho of Ho Farms Hawaii said losses from the viruses on his Kahuku farm have been both immediate and long term.

"It affects the production. You have a yield that you hope to get. But then the yield is dramatically reduced," he said.

UH College of Tropical Agriculture researcher Leyla Kaufman is field testing 15 different types of tomatoes that resist both viruses. Most of them are not commercially grown here.

"Tomato is a very important crop for diversified agriculture here in Hawaii," Kaufman said. "That's why we want the farmers to have an alternative so that they can continue growing tomatoes."

She said the tomatoes being tested require little or no pesticides.

"All these varieties are traditionally bred so there are no GMOs," she said.

On Wednesday, UH showed the virus resistant varieties to twenty Oahu farmers, encouraging them to experiment Medrano said he'll give a couple of them a try.

"Resistant varieties, that to me is the only remedy," he said.


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