While overall infestations still remain relatively low, instances of branched broomrape in California have been on the rise. Industry efforts have also been ramping up in recent years to try and limit the spread and impact of the weed. Managing Director of the California Tomato Research Institute, Zach Bagley said there has been increased focus on the quarantine pest since 2019. The weed poses a risk to growers as even a small infestation can result in a 100 percent crop loss due to having to be destroyed.
“This is the time to take it as seriously as possible,” said Bagley. “The losses from this pest can be anywhere from 20 to 70 percent yield loss. So, we shouldn’t be fooled, ‘hey we’re at low levels. Let’s not treat this the way that we’re treating it as a quarantine pest. This is something that maybe is just another weed.’ That’s not where we’re at today.”
The pest posses a threat to tomatoes, carrots, melons, lettuce, and several other crops. Other Mediterranean regions addressing issues of branched broomrape have served as a model for some of the approaches being taken in California. Bagley said that efforts are ongoing in the registration process for materials used in a mitigate program initially developed in Israel. A legislative approach to the issue is also being undertaken with the introduction of AB 1620, which would essentially establish a commodity board specifically for broomrape.
“It’s being called the Broomrape Control Program in the language of that legislation to date,” Bagley explained. “It has to go through its process, but the expectation of that is it would set up a marketing order or commodity board much like the Beet Curly Top Virus Control Board, so that tomatoes could work together – growers and processors – but also other impacted industries to fund and support efforts for control and eradication of this pest.”