A UF/IFAS researcher is working on developing tomatoes resistant to target spot, a disease that has been problematic.

Target spot is a fungus-caused disease that has been around for half a century, but has recently become “problematic,” according to a UF/IFAS blog. The disease causes lesions on fruit and leaves, and the article names it a “devastating disease” that “has become increasingly problematic during the last few years” due to developing resistance to several common fungicides. One UF/IFAS researcher, Edgar Sierra, a researcher who just completed his doctoral dissertation on target spot resistance, may have made a breakthrough in developing tomatoes resistant to target spot. See the details below.

Developing Tomatoes Resistant to Target Spot

“No current tomato varieties resist the disease, and the only way to control it is through fungicides. However, target spot is increasingly resistant to several common fungicides, which drives us to develop resistant varieties,” Sierra said in the article.

The article detailed that “Sierra used growth rooms to screen tomato seedlings for disease and discover sources of resistance. Then he tested mature plants in the field to understand how useful this resistance may be. Results from field trials demonstrated that plants with target-spot resistance held up against the disease, even without fungicide sprays. We wanted to prove that the resistance identified in seedlings would translate to the mature plants in the field, and that was successful.”

Sam Hutton, a UF/IFAS associate professor of horticultural sciences and a tomato breeder at GCREC who acted as one of Sierra’s advisors, said “Edgar’s findings are leading to development of the very first commercial varieties with target spot resistance, which should help provide more effective disease control, reduce disease-management costs and reduce pesticide applications. More research into the underlying genetics behind this resistance will further improve our ability to develop resistant tomato varieties and may also lead to improved resistance to this disease in other crops.”

Sierra added that “This is very exciting, especially given that it’s difficult to find plants that resist pathogens such as target spot. This is also a very challenging disease because it is very easy to confuse it with other common diseases like bacterial spot or early blight.”

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