Curled leaf problem - what is it?

Booboo(z5a IN)May 15, 2005

One of my tomato plants has developed strange curly leaves. All the rest look normal and I have many plants. I took this picture a couple of days ago when I first noticed the problem. The tomatoes have only been in the basement under lights - not outdoors yet. They are all in the same seed starting mix and all have been watered the same to the best of my ability. I haven't noticed any kind of insects on any of my plants. The seeds were started on April 10th. Any help much appreciated - TIA

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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

All seedlings of just one variety Boo and no others? Or just one variety and one plant?

If so, what is the variety?


    Bookmark   May 15, 2005 at 1:49PM
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Booboo(z5a IN)

I have four plants of the cherry tomato variety pictured. Only one is affected with the strange looking leaves.

A couple of days ago I moved four flats of tomatoes to the greenhouse ... all the rest are still in the basement under lights and I have around 175 tomato plants althgether of several varieties. This morning when I checked the ones in the greenhouse I found two Mom's Paste varieties with similar looking tops out of twenty-seven plants I have of that variety. I apparently just didn't notice them before.

In this picture is the curley leafed cherry tomato with another same variety next to it that's normal.


    Bookmark   May 15, 2005 at 3:10PM
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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

OK, now that I see a whole plant it's clear that curling leaves is not the problem.

The problem appears to be viral with the stems bending down like that and being so distorted.

If these were outsode I'd be asking about herbicide use but they're inside. And for that reason I'd have to suggest seed borne transmission, b'c if it were something in the basement then ALL plants woujld show it, like emissions from the furnace or whatever.

But then the issue is why seedborne transmission with two different varieties.

And then the question is what's the source of the seeds for those two varieties? Commercial seed or traded seed or shared seed or whatever?

Just trying to make some educated, I hope, guesses as I go along here.


    Bookmark   May 15, 2005 at 6:45PM
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Booboo(z5a IN)

Hi Carolyn,

Oh oh this sounds bad and scary.

The cherry seeds I got in a trade last year and grew them for the first time last season. They're growing this year from seeds I fermented and saved.

The Mom's Paste are my own saved seeds. I originally got them in a trade and have been growing and saving my own seeds - this is the sixth year.

If you recall, I asked whether early blight (which I think is what I had bad last year, for the first time) could be in/on tomato seeds.

So any seeds that I had saved last year and used this year, I treated with a clorox solution prior to planting. Also any newly traded seeds I used this year were given the same treatment.

So probably the first thing I should do is get rid of the affected plants asap - right.

I've been searching various leaf diseases and haven't found anything that looks like mine - yet.

Thanks so much for your help!


    Bookmark   May 15, 2005 at 9:16PM
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Booboo(z5a IN)

I've been doing a lot of searching and reading but haven't come up with an answer.

I've eliminated Curly Top Virus since I read it's spread by leafhoppers. It's definitely not herbicide damage. CMV I read is not seed borne. There's TMV - I hope I can rule this one out since I read "which is seldom a problem for home gardeners." So far all the others tomato plants look healthy.

I'd very much like to find out what it is, how it got on my tomatoes and what I can do to keep the other from getting it, if anything.

Any suggestions appreciated.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2005 at 2:59AM
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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)


This is a strange one.

If the problem were your water in terms of pH or salts or anything else, then ALL the plants would be affected, but they aren't.

Only 2/27 of your own saved seeds for Mom's Paste and I missed that those were your own seeds above, and only 1/4 cherry toamto -plants.

It isn't just leaf curl and it isn't jsut Leaf Roll, the plant you show is distorted.

So what can cause such distortion on some plants of a single variety and not on others.

Chemical damage, yes, but then why not all?

Fumes from furnace, anything environmental? Possibly, but then almost all plants should be affected.

So what else are we left with other than something seedborne b'c I don't know of any bacterial or fungal diseases that do that and DON't have other leaf symtpms, as in lesions, so that leaves us with viruses.

AS to which virus, I don't know for sure, plain and simple.

Yes, CMV is not known to be seedborne but I don't think they've tested all the other newer strains that have been reported recently. If that pertained to your saved seeds you would have seen some CMV symptoms on other veggies, I would imagine.

TMV? Well, that's remote but I don't know your other seed source. Coul;d be CMV as well, possibly.

So right now I'm not able to specifically ID what the problem is, but am still thinking it's seedborne.

It doesn't bother me that 2/27 Mom's Paste plants are affected and not all, b/c infection is a quantitative process and no way do all seeds have the same seed coat contaminants.

If you want to contact your local Coop Ext about it, why not do that?

And yes, I'd quarantine those plants even tho you said you've seen no insects. Maybe it's something temporary and they'll grow out of it. Let's hope so.


    Bookmark   May 17, 2005 at 11:13AM
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Booboo(z5a IN)

I wasn't sure where to quarantine these three plants so I set them on the patio. I still have a few flats of tomatoes in the basement and the rest are in my very tiny greenhouse so at least they aren't near the healthy ones.

I've started way more plants than I actually need (just in case of some kind of failure) so it's not a matter that I have to save these three varieties anyway but the need to know if I have a disease and identify.

My other seed source was a trade in the northeast and no TMV problems there.

Last year our cukes had some kind of wilt problem (not planted close to tomatoes) and my Co. Agent said he had seen this problem in our entire county. So this year I've purchased a hybrid variety resistant to wilt.

Good idea, I'll call my Co. Agent and see what he has to say about my tomato problem... maybe one could be sent to Purdue for testing. I know I won't rest easy till I get this solved but maybe it won't actually be solved ...

I appreciate your time and help more than I can tell you.
Thanks again!


    Bookmark   May 17, 2005 at 1:43PM
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cportu(z10 FLA)

Boo, get rid of the plants. keep an eye out for small bugs that could be transmitting a viral disease. It certainly look viral.

Just my 2 cents,


p.s. I had some tomatoes and peppers that looked IDENTICAL.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2005 at 4:16PM
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Booboo(z5a IN)

My plant in question was sent to Purdue U. along with a normal plant of the same variety. The two remaining plants are isolated from the rest of my tomatoes but I can't get rid of them till I know the cause. Boo

Here's what I received this a.m. from PU.

HOST: Tomato
CULTIVAR: Cherry - 'Heirloom'
INFO DESIRED: Problem ID; Control measures


The distorted growth appears to be episodic in nature. Distortion is not on newly emerging leaves, as would be expected for a virus infection. No fungal or bacterial pathogens were found to be associated with the collapsed leaf tissue. I have forwarded the samples to Dr. Allen Hammer, in Horticulture, for his appraisal of potential causal factors that might be involved in the expression of symptoms observed.

Gail Ruhl, Senior Plant Disease Diagnostician

    Bookmark   June 1, 2005 at 2:41PM
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cportu(z10 FLA)

Hey BooBoo, how much did it cost you to send this to them??? Seems like you're getting a real professional answer to your question!



    Bookmark   June 1, 2005 at 3:43PM
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Booboo(z5a IN)

Posted by: cportu z10 FLA
Hey BooBoo, how much did it cost you to send this to them??? Seems like you're getting a real professional answer to your question! Thanks, Carlos-

Only $11 initially. I haven't been notified if there will be additional charges. Oh I hope not but .... I may have to pay some other lab fees? I hope if that's the case I get an estimate first. I want an answer for sure ... just don't relish paying an arm and a leg for it.   
    Bookmark   June 1, 2005 at 4:02PM
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cportu(z10 FLA)

I doubt they would charge you extra. For 11 dollars it is certainly worth it! Maybe you could post the information on where to send it, etc? Is this only for residents of Indiana?

Sometimes its just nice knowing what you are dealing with!


    Bookmark   June 1, 2005 at 4:06PM
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Booboo(z5a IN)

My County Agent sent or rather took the plants to P.U for me. I'm not sure if it's for IN residents only but here is their information ... PLANT & PEST DIAGNOSTIC LABORATORY ...

Hope the url helps. I'll be out of town for a few days. You're right, I need to know the problem :-)

    Bookmark   June 1, 2005 at 4:15PM
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chad_la(z7 TX)

Am most curiuos as to your findings as I too share your pain. A "merced" is ate up with this wilt, a "german queen" is showing some signs of it, pulled one "early girl" and another is in poor shape, and a "roma" shows a few curled leaves but is obviously resistant to it. A daconil/malithion mix has no effect on this. All started when i planted a tray of pepper plants purchased from a home improvement megastore whose name rhymes with Tome Sheep-o. Peppers developed rust spot within 24 hrs of planting and the maters were sick next day. No garden problems whatsoever till this. ugh

    Bookmark   June 3, 2005 at 7:21AM
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Booboo(z5a IN)

For anyone interested in my findings ... as stated in my previous note Purdue Senior Plant Disease Diagnostician forwarded my samples to Dr. Allen Hammer in Horticulture. I received a soil test report with readings for pH, Soluble Salts, Nitrate, Phosphorus, Potassium, Ammonium, Ca and Mg. His additional notes are "N and K are very low. Ca is low. I do not think the symptoms look like a nutrition problem. The very low levels in sample 2 (this was the curled leaf sample) may be a temporary reading as the plants do not show those levels at this point."

So virus has been ruled out and no fungal or bacterial pathogens were found.

Here's a picture I took yesterday of one of my two remaining Mom's Paste tomatoes that had the curled leaves and looked just like the cherry tomato pictured above. So this is one month later and you can see the new growth doesn't have curled leaves. The bottom line is I don't have an answer as to why the curled leaves on three plants at that point in their growing stage.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2005 at 12:35AM
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I Googled "tomato leaf curl" and found this site. We planted tomatoes this spring that we got from our town's Saturday Market, and immediately the plants developed this strange leaf curl. Not knowing what it was, we simply watched. I now see that we should have pulled them out and thrown them away because our Concord grape plants are now showing a strange, curled look to the new leaves as well. A diagnosis of a viral infection certainly seems correct. Yes, we can pull out the tomato plants and get rid of them, but what do you folks think about the grapes? Maybe we could simply trim off the curled leaves? Any information would be greatly appreciated.


    Bookmark   July 26, 2007 at 11:37AM
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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)


You might get better response if you start your own thread.

Beyond that, if your tomatoes have a virus, I doubt that the grape problem is the same thing.

Further, the tomatoes and/or grapes might have received drift of some weed killer.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2007 at 2:37PM
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Carlos , I happened to see what you wrote concerning a proper diagnosis from a lab. You thought that it would be nice to know what you are dealing with.

I wanted to let you know that the Univ. of Fl. runs a Plant Diagnostic Lab in Homestead.

General Site

And here is the link to the clinic:

For $20 you can bring in a sample or samples of your
problem and you will get a proper diagnosis. Well worth it.

This year I took in a tomato plant just to make sure what I was dealing with and it came back bacterial spot AND early blight. They also give you recommendations.

In addition for $8 they will ID any insect you may be unsure of.


Here is a link that might be useful: TREC-links to Diagnostic Plant Clinic

    Bookmark   July 26, 2007 at 11:55PM
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