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Interview with Agostino Marcellino of HM. Clause Italia

Is the end to the ToBRFV threat a possibility?

In response to the threat of ToBRFV, which is having an increasingly strong impact on Sicilian tomato production, HM. Clause Italia recently launched its first varieties with IR against ToBRFV, the first European premiere, in Vittoria, Sicily. Two segments are involved: cherry tomatoes and smooth round red tomatoes (vine tomatoes). The breeder's goal is to "provide varieties that are resistant to ToBRFV while maintaining quality from a cultivation point of view while improving flavor and attractiveness."

Let's take a closer look at this, starting with Intuitivo F1, HM. Clause Italia's first cherry tomato with medium resistance to ToBRFV. Rooted in its Sicilian land, HM. Clause is consolidating its presence in the cherry tomato segment, providing yield guarantees without compromising product quality. Intuitivo F1 is perfectly suitable for winter cultivation, even under high virus and disease pressure. The tomatoes are of excellent quality and combine an intense and very appealing red color with high Brix.  

The other variety officially released with medium resistance to ToBRFV is the vine tomato Fleming F1, defined by the company as multifunctional, just like a Swiss army knife. But what exactly do they mean by that? We raised this question during an interview with Agostino Marcellino, sales area manager in Sicily at HM. Clause Italia, after first asking him about the effectiveness of IR against ToBRFV.

Freshplaza (FP): How can one define the range of effectiveness of IR against ToBRFV?                                                         
Agostino Marcellino (AM): IR or intermediate resistance is a classification by the European Phytosanitary Service. It means that the plant can show symptoms of the virus, but not to the extent that it compromises the entire production. It is a very common resistance used by seed companies, for example, also against another virus, TYLCV, which caused many problems 20 years ago. 

Intuitivo F1

(FP): How many years since the first trials of the varieties?        (AM): Research activity began immediately after the virus emerged in Jordan and its genome was sequenced. The final phase involving the Sicilian team started more than two years ago.

(FP): In which areas, whether in Italy and/or in the world, were the tests conducted?                                                                          (AM): I can only speak about the area I cover. In the Italian context, these two varieties were tested only in Sicily, given the very high virus prevalence on the island.

(FP): What are the yield averages of the new varieties?          (AM): The yield averages were analyzed with very precise calculations. Intuitivo F1 and Fleming F1 are among the top varieties grown in Sicily with regard to their respective segments.

Fleming F1

(FP): Are there prevention protocols that can complement the IR of these varieties?                                                                        (AM): We were the first and, as far as I know, the only seed company committed to education on prevention against ToBRFV. We believe that prevention protocols, along with intermediate resistance, are what make it possible to effectively control ToBRFV today. To put it briefly, with good crop management and our new varieties, ToBRFV raises much less fear.

(FP): Can you explain what you mean by 'Swiss army knife' used to describe Fleming F1?                                                              (AM): The meaning is obvious. We believe this variety is multifunctional because red vine tomatoes, in our opinion, are often used incorrectly both as a bulk product on the shelf and for the catering industry, as a tomato for salads, and, of course, as a red vine tomato per se. Fleming F1 allows growers to use each of these commercial outlets without having to change varieties and even during the same growing season. For example, if the price of tomatoes as an ingredient in salads is good, growers can harvest a product very similar to traditional tomatoes for salads, and if catering suppliers are looking for an oxheart tomato, they can also use Fleming. On a final note, it can be harvested in clusters. The innovation of this variety lies precisely in offering a high-quality product that can cater to a maximum of needs and demands, and not just for one purpose. 

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