TSWV dates back almost 40 years when it was discovered in peanuts in Texas. It was later found in Louisiana and Alabama. In the 1990s, the virus was detected as a major problem in such Georgia crops as peanuts, vegetables and tobacco.

Eventually, resistant cultivars (tomato varieties that possess the resistant gene) stopped almost all losses from the disease. Based on a 2008-2009 survey conducted by Riley and his team, 75 percent of farmers in Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and North Carolina were using an improved method of growing tomatoes, which included resistant cultivars.

Seventy-one percent of those responding were satisfied with their crop’s production. According to the USDA TSWV RAMP Project website (http://www.tswvramp.org) resistant cultivars prevent plants from wilting, which greatly increases the crop’s yields. These cultivars also reduce irregular ripening of fruit.

Controlling the TSWV is a step in the right direction for tomato growers, but it didn’t totally solve the problem of thrips, the small insects that can transmit the virus.

“There’s still a little bit of a problem left with thrips themselves because western flower thrips can come in late season and feed directly on the fruit,” Riley said.

“Even if it’s a resistant cultivar, you can still have some virus symptoms show up on the fruit. For the most part, the problem of major yield loss in tomato has been solved in Georgia.”

Riley added that the best way to control late-season western flower thrips is achieved with products like spinetoram.