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California Tomato Crop Threatened by Mexican Virus

Audio

Aired 4/19/09

Researchers say a nasty disease that keeps tomatoes from growing came into Imperial County from Mexico. Now California agriculture officials want to keep it from infecting the state's tomato crop. KPBS reporter Ed Joyce has more.

The yellow leaf curl virus affects a variety of plants. But when the disease infects tomato plants, the plants don't produce fruit. Researchers say the virus was carried into Imperial County on white flies blown in from Mexico. It was found in several Imperial County locations including a high school greenhouse.

Steve Lyle is with the state department of food and agriculture .

Lyle : We've not yet found the virus in commercial tomato fields which we're encouraged by. But still the risk remains until we stop finding it here and reach the point where we feel like we've eradicated the disease.

California produces over 95 percent of the tomatoes in the United States used for prepared salsas, soups, ketchup and other products. The tomato crop generates around $400 million a year for the state's economy.

Ed Joyce, KPBS News.

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