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Pepper ringspot virus outbreak prompts Zimbabwe to restrict potato imports from South Africa

The government in Zimbabwe has moved to restrict the importation of potatoes and potato seeds from South Africa due to an outbreak of pepper ringspot virus, a senior Government official has said. Pepper ringspot virus (PepRSV) can affect potatoes negatively, causing spraing of tubers and affecting its marketability.

As Nqobile Bhebhe reports for the Chronicle in Zimbabwe, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, Professor Obert Jiri said the restrictions are meant to protect the local potato industry.

“We will restrict from now on the importation of potatoes so that we protect our farmers from the ringspot virus. It is important that all importers of potatoes comply with this directive during this period as we do further assessments,” said Prof Jiri.

He added: “We are therefore on the watch because that might also affect our potatoes and potato farmers. We are sending our teams to South Africa to have a closer look at the situation and we will continue to monitor the situation as a country and as a region to ensure that our farmers are protected and the pest is restricted to where it started.”

Notification issued by the IPPC 

The International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) issued a notification in late December 2023 on “the detection of Pepper ringspot virus (PepRSV) in the Republic of South Africa”. It says, “The pest was detected in October 2022 in a commercial potato planting in Polokwane, Capricorn District Municipality, Limpopo Province”.

The IPPC further says that the pest was detected in the various Provinces of South Africa, but is not known to occur in the Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape, Gauteng, and Western Cape Provinces. Surveys in other parts of the country are conducted and all other phytosanitary measures are implemented.

Potential spread or establishment of PepRSV from infected areas through host material to other provinces may negatively affect domestic and international trade and export potential of relevant host commodities, according to the IPPC.

PepRSV symptoms

ProMED-mail, a program of the International Society for Infectious Diseases, also noted the detection of the pest on January 9, 2024, saying that Pepper ringspot virus (PepRSV) is considered to be a counterpart of South American origin of Tobacco rattle virus (TRV). In potato, both viruses can cause spraing disease of potato in different areas.

According to the ProMED-mail note, symptoms may include brown lines, rings and flecks in tubers which normally remain internal but occasionally may extend to the surface; some infected tubers may not show any symptoms. Spraing increases in cool temperatures and with storage.

Leaf and stem symptoms generally only appear if infected tubers are planted. Tuber yield may or may not be reduced, but economic losses are due to quality being severely affected.

Source: Chronicle. Full story here
Source: International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC). Read the full notification here
Source: ProMED-mail
Photo: Spraing of a Maris Piper tuber caused by Tobacco rattle virus (TRV). Credit AHDB

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