Syngenta Vegetables Seeds is using augmented reality technology to add a highly futuristic dimension to its tomato breeding operation.
As it battles on two fronts to prevent the spread of brown rugose fruit virus (ToBRFV) in tomato plants and Covid-19 in humans, the breeding company has had to postpone in-person visits to Tomato Vision, its newly opened development centre near Rotterdam.
But it believes the kinds of virtual tour made possible by headsets like Microsoft Hololens are the next best thing when it comes to experiencing what is really going on inside the demo greenhouse.
“The Hololens enables us to give customers a virtual tour in our demo greenhouse,” says Arthur van Marrewijk, product development specialist at Syngenta Vegetable Seeds. “I can call them via Teams, drag in any files or data that I want, I can talk to a group pf people, and I can explain what nice varieties we have.”
Syngenta will take part in next week's Global Tomato Congress, which is being held as a virtual event. The meeting is expected to attract more than 1,500 people from across the international fresh tomato business.
Registrations for Global Tomato Congress 2021 are free of charge. For more details, visit www.globaltomatocogress.com.
The group is also launching its first commercial tomato variety with resistance to ToBRFV in early 2021. The variety will be released in areas where growers face severe disease pressure from the virus, and is designed to support them against crop losses.
“The Syngenta Vegetables R&D team is ahead of the curve with the launch of the first commercial ToBRFV-resistant variety,” explains Ruud Kaagman, global crop unit head for tomatoes.
“Following this launch, we will aim to introduce varieties with resistance to ToBRFV across our breeding programmes and across the globe. Broad resistance will be built in the portfolio during the next several years.”
ToBRFV is a newly discovered so-called tobamovirus, one that is transmitted mechanically – that is through contact – between crops by people and equipment.
A relative of the tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) and tomato mosaic virus (ToMV), the pathogen is said to be very stable and very infectious, and can infect both tomatoes and peppers.
Symptoms caused by ToBRFV in tomatoes are similar to those caused by other tobamoviruses in susceptible plants.
These include: a mosaic pattern on the leaves, narrowing of leaves, necrosis on the pedicle, calyces or petioles, and yellow spots on the fruit. All of those symptoms can have a significant adverse impact on product quality and plant yield.