Tomato or tomäto, whatever you call it, it was the focus of an international effort to “slice” away the diseases that affect it.

The 1st International Symposium on Tomato Diseases was held in Orlando, Fla., this summer. The Symposium, which was organized by the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), Ege University Faculty of Agriculture in Turkey, and the International Society for Horticultural Sciences (ISHS), was host to over 190 participants from 28 countries.

As the world marketplace grows, so does the importance of holding international meetings like the Symposium. Tim Momol, co-organizer of the Symposium and a plant pathologist with the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center (NFREC) in Quincy, Fla., said it was organized to educate and share information on tomato diseases, strengthen global food security and environmental protection, and encourage interaction and cooperation among scientists worldwide.

“This meeting has created many opportunities for international collaboration among scientists and related industries,” said Steve Olson, an organizing committee member and professor of horticulture at NFREC. “The latest research and Extension technologies presented at this meeting will help to further develop environmentally friendly tomato production and will strengthen global food security.”

When it comes to protecting tomatoes against diseases, it’s a worldwide issue. According to a report released by the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service in April 2004, China is the world’s largest tomato producer, followed by the United States. The top fresh tomato exporters include Spain, Mexico, Canada, the United States, Italy, France, and Turkey. Some of the top fresh tomato exporters are also the major importers, including the United States, Canada, Italy, and Mexico. According to Global Trade Atlas statistics, Italy is the dominant exporter of canned tomatoes.

“It [the Symposium] let me see who’s on the cutting edge, it’s not just the United States, but all around the world,” said Barbara Liedl, a research scientist and associate professor of biology at West Virginia State University, in Institute, W.V. “Now that we have an international market place, things move around a lot faster than they did 10 or 20 years ago, so we have to start combating things on an international, rather than a national level.”

Many countries from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas were represented at the Symposium. It was attended by a wide spectrum of industry professionals, including university faculty and researchers, commercial company representatives, and government researchers.

“The 1st International Symposium on Tomato Diseases was a very important event for the tomato scientific community in the world,” said Liliana Stamova, a tomato breeder with the California Tomato Research Institute in Escalon, Calif. “It was wonderful to attend the Symposium because you meet colleagues from many countries, you share ideas, you exchange information.”

Attendees were able to share ideas and information about tomato diseases in their states or countries through presentations, which included “Emerging Diseases and Detection,” “Disease Resistance,” and “Disease Management,” research poster displays, discussions, and networking.

“I exchanged several experiences and ideas about the research projects I have been carrying out in the last years,” said Renato de Oliveira Resende, a professor of plant virology at the University of Brasilia, in Brasilia, Brazil. “I also had the opportunity to discuss possible joint projects aiming to produce elite tomato cultivars with broad resistance to geminiviruses and tospoviruses, for me the Symposium was very fruitful.”

Overall, the 1st International Symposium on Tomato Diseases reached its goal of educating and sharing information on tomato diseases, strengthening global food security and environmental protection, and encouraging interaction and cooperation among scientists worldwide.

“Congratulations certainly should go to the organizers of this inaugural conference, Tim Momol, Steve Olson, and Jeff Jones, for organizing both excellent conference logistics and scientific agenda,” said Jim Rich, a UF/IFAS nematologist who also works at NFREC. “The most significant indicator of conference success was shown by the vote of participants to hold similar meetings in future years.” The next Symposium is planned for 2007 in Turkey and will be organized by Hikmet Saygili, from Ege University.