Viroid-infected tomato and capsicum seed shipments to Australia.
Pospiviroid species are transmitted through capsicum and tomato seeds. Trade in these seeds represents a route for the viroids to invade new regions, but the magnitude of this hazard has not been adequately investigated. Since 2012, tomato seed lots sent to Australia have been tested for pospiviroids before they are released from border quarantine, and capsicum seed lots have been similarly tested in quarantine since 2013. Altogether, more than 2000 seed lots have been tested. Pospiviroids were detected in more than 10% of the seed lots in the first years of mandatory testing, but the proportion of lots that were infected declined in subsequent years to less than 5%. Six pospiviroid species were detected: Citrus exocortis viroid, Columnea latent viroid, Pepper chat fruit viroid, Potato spindle tuber viroid, Tomato chlorotic dwarf viroid and Tomato apical stunt viroid. They were detected in seed lots exported from 18 countries from every production region. In many seed lots, the detectable fraction (prevalence) of infected seeds was estimated to be very small, as low as 6×10-5 (∼1 in 16,000; CI 5×10-6 to 2.5×10-4) for some lots. These findings raise questions about seed production practices, and the study indicates the geographic distributions of these pathogens are uncertain, and there is a continuing threat of invasion.