UF researchers discovered new pathogens that may damage Florida tomatoes.

Gary Vallad, an associate professor of plant pathology at the UF Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, said detecting the pathogens early can help protect the tomatoes, but misidentifying a pathogen can cause problems controlling the disease.

A team of researchers led by Vallad found two pathogens. One of them, called Pseudomonas cichorii, could cause parts of the leaf and other crops to develop bacteria which will eat away at the plant.

The second identified pathogen, Pseudomonas floridensis, is new and was specific to the tomato plant, Vallad said. Researchers first saw evidence of the pathogens in Hillsborough and Manatee counties in 2011 and 2012 while investigating a series of outbreaks.

Thanks to early detection of the pathogens, there is no immediate threat to the tomato industry,  Vallad said. He said the biggest threat to the Florida tomato industry is not from the biological threat but rather the economical competition from Mexico.

Vallad said the study will help make farmers aware of the different pathogens that can impact their crops.  

“The supply of tomatoes affects all who enjoy eating them,” he said. “The ultimate goal of my program is to provide the tomato industry with information about the diseases impacting crop production and how to best manage them.”