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tobacco etch

Tobacco etch virus
This information is part of a full datasheet available in the Crop Protection Compendium (CPC). Find out more information on how to access the CPC.
©CAB International. Published under a CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0 licence.


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Host plants / species affected

Main hosts

show all species affected
Capsicum annuum (bell pepper)
Nicotiana tabacum (tobacco)
Solanum lycopersicum (tomato)

List of symptoms / signs

Fruit - abnormal shape
Fruit - internal feeding
Leaves - abnormal forms
Leaves - abnormal patterns
Leaves - necrotic areas
Leaves - wilting
Whole plant - dwarfing


The severity of symptoms in cultivated host plants can vary depending on when the plants become infected, the cultivar grown and the virus strain present. Symptoms in susceptible pepper (Capsicum annuum) consist of vein-clearing, vein-banding, narrowing and distortion (Johnson, 1930; McLean, 1962; Zitter, 1971). The vein-banding is distinct from that caused by Potato virus Y (PVY), consisting of pronounced dark-green mosaic and mottled areas which are usually associated with the larger veins. Internodes may be shortened leading to stunted plants. If plants are infected early, developing fruits are distorted with rugosity. Most strains cause root necrosis, wilting and death of tabasco pepper (Capsicum frutescens), which is a diagnostic feature (Greenleaf, 1953).

Tomato plants can express mild vein-clearing and mottling with leaf crinkle and pronounced epinasty (McLean, 1962). Plants infected early have shortened internodes and can be severely stunted (Debrot, 1976; Zitter and Tsai, 1981). Fruits from such plants are mottled.

In tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum), affected leaves show vein-clearing, mottling and necrotic etching, followed by chlorotic mottle (Johnson, 1930; Shepherd and Purcifull, 1971). Leaves are narrowed and plants are stunted. The symptoms can be more severe in Burley tobaccos than with flue-cured types (Stover, 1951a).

Prevention and control

Cultural Control and Sanitary Methods

A series of cultural practices have been used to control TEV infection, especially in pepper and tomato crops. Use of organic (sawdust, woodchips, and maize-cob mulches) (Kemp, 1978) and aluminium foil mulches (Black, 1980) has contributed to delayed virus spread, and resulted in reduced virus incidence and increased yields. The use of mineral oil sprays to interfere with aphid transmission of potyviruses including TEV has been reported (Simons et al., 1977). A five-fold reduction in virus infection was noted for two pepper varieties receiving a weekly spray of JMS Stylet Oil, despite the presence of virus source plants placed in the centre of research plots. The virus tested was Pepper mottle virus (PepMoV), but similar results would be expected for TEV (Zitter and Ozaki, 1978).

An integrated approach for the control of tomato viruses including TEV was successful in Mexico; this included the use of virus-free transplants, eradication of virus weed hosts and the use of mineral oil sprays (Martinez-Ramirez, 1990).

Host-Plant Resistance

Host-plant resistance has been used to reduce losses by TEV, especially in pepper. High levels of resistance were identified in several Capsicum introductions and varieties (Sowell and Demski, 1977). Resistance to TEV and other potyviruses is present in bell pepper (Cook et al., 1976), in sweet yellow wax pepper (Villalon et al., 1988) and in hot jalapeno pepper (Villalon et al., 1992).

In tobacco, resistance to TEV has been reported in Burley varieties (Fischer and Rufty, 1993; Nielsen and Kennedy, 1994).

There are no reports of TEV-resistant tomato varieties.

Transgenic plants with resistance to TEV have been produced (Tanzer et al., 1997; Fellers et al., 1998) but have not yet been used commercially.


Heavy losses attributable to TEV have previously been reported in both pepper (Zitter and Ozaki, 1973) and tomato crops (Zitter and Tsai, 1981). A 25% yield reduction was recorded in tomato in Venezuela (Debrot, 1976) and similar losses have been reported elsewhere.

Severe yield losses were noted for Burley tobaccos, but losses were lower with flue-cured types (Stover, 1951a). The random natural infection of flue-cured tobacco was studied in North Carolina, USA, and it was found that plants showing early symptoms of TEV had significantly less leaf area by the season's end than healthy plants or plants infected late in the season. The overall yield and value of the crop was not correlated with the number of infected plants per plot, which suggested that this correction was due to compensation by neighbouring plant growth (Eckel and Lampert, 1993b).