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County alerts gardeners about tomato-killing virus


Last updated 6/1/2007 at Noon

SAN DIEGO — Tomato Yellow Leaf Curl Virus has devastated tomato plants in the Southern United States, Mexico and the Caribbean and has now been discovered in California. Tomatoes at an Imperial County greenhouse were destroyed after the virus was spotted in March. Officials do not know how the virus got there, but they do warn consumers about the risk of buying infected plants.

“If you buy plants through the Internet from other states, you may inadvertently transport new diseases into California,” said County Agricultural Commissioner Bob Atkins. “Buy plants sold at your local nursery. They are best suited for our climate and have been screened for exotic diseases.”

The virus is spread by a whitefly, an insect common in San Diego County. In addition to tomatoes, the virus can infect other plants including peppers, petunias and several weed species.

County officials said there is no cure for the disease, and infected plants must be destroyed. However, controlling whiteflies can help prevent the disease from spreading in the garden.

Before buying plants or fruit from out of state, including purchases over the Internet, gardeners should contact the County Agricultural Commissioner at (858) 694-8988. For additional gardening information, call the Master Gardener program at (858) 694-2860 or visit the County Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures Web site at or the County Farm and Home Advisor at


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