Aphids? Leaf curl up, tomato rot before turing red

abufish(z10 CA)July 12, 2006

Hi This is my first year of tomato growing. I have four tomato plants, three of them have tomatoes on them, havn't turn red/orange yet. I started noticing some curl leaves since last week, and one tomato found half rot still on the branch. I looked into every leaf carefully, there're some very tiny aphid look insect, black, some have white stripes. They jump and disappear when you try to touch them. Some eggs on the leaves too. Can the "aphids" cause rot fruit? I sprayed some dawn liquid with water, doesn't do much help since these "aphids" quickly disappear. Noticed some "aphids" on my bell pepper plant too.

Here are some images, overall:

curled leaves:

"aphid" and the eggs on leaf:

eggs again:

rotting tomatoes:

some brownish marks on stem and fruit

Thanks a lot!

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Those (eggs) look like psyllid nymphs to me, the actual eggs are very tiny and are often found hanging on the edge of leaves in a row, the "aphids" are the adult psyllid flies. I had nymphs on one leaf but they were on the underside of the leaf. Look at the thread that's titled "HELP! tomato problem solver" and then select the one that is from UC Davis for good info about this tough insect to battle. Also you could google pictures search for "Psyllid tomato" etc. Also use search feature on this website for psyllid, there are a few of us that have battled them.

Those buggers are pretty nasty, the nymphs that are attached to the leaves inject toxins to your plant. Mine was attacked pretty young, I ripped off the leaf when I saw it and for at about a month my plant was pretty severely stunted. Has fruit all over it but I have pulled off the first four largest ones because they had brown spots more like the last pic than your #5 pic. I'm thinking my plant is finally recovered as is catching up to my other plants in size and becoming bushy, though time will tell if it will be strong enough/mature enough to produce good fruit.

Anyway, looks like you have a few things going on here, your plants may be pretty stressed due to the toxin, leaving them more susceptible to the other blights and diseases right now. I would also take advice from others as I'm really a new gardener but I'll give you my two cents anyway. Also look at the problem solver for the TAMU problem solver and just look through all those pics and decide what you've got.

For what it's worth, I would pull off all leaves with the scaly buggers on them. Check undersides of leaves carefully as well, though one gardener here has tried scrubbing the scales off instead of pruning, though I'm afraid scrubbing or scraping may damage leaves too so I would just prune as long as you don't have to defoliate your plant entirely. Also prune off the most diseased leaves and branches, then cull the bad fruit (it will probably get worse, be inedible and is sucking energy that your plant needs to use to recover). BTW, #5 looks like plain old BER to me but plant may just be stressed and immature to avoid it.

Then spray entire plant and under leaves with insecticidal soap (search for insecticidal soap on this site for tips), it most likely won't get the nymphs off the leaves, that's why it's best to prune or manually remove the nymphs. The soap will get rid of adults and probably the eggs that are so hard to see. I think that the soap has to be washed off within a few hours, so do that.

Then I would use Daconil spay (Ortho Garden Control, Chlorothalonil) per bottle instructions, don't wash off and don't spray your leaves for 4 or 5 days ....also, be careful as spray can burn so apply early evening may be best. If you are organic, you can also try Serenade...that's actually what I used but it looks like you have a tougher situation than what I had. Daconil is actually widely considered to be about the safest spray of this type so I have bought some myself to combat further issues.

I would also buy some more mulch to get a really thick layer going and let them rest for a few days, keeping them moist of course, don't get the foliage wet with water at all if you can help it. After 4 or 5 days rest I'd feed them. I've been using a high-end commercial fertilizer from a local nursery but many here recommend the seaweed and fish fertilizer combo and I will probably move to that next year myself. You can mix those two (again search for what other people have discussed on this fertilizers here) and do both a foliar feed and a feed with their water. I wouldn't use Miracle Grow or Jobe's, just might be too risky and burn them or something. You shouldn't need to refertilze for a while, two week intervals maybe? I do 10 day intervals with my commerical stuff. Not sure what your soil and ammendments were like but I wouldn't fertilize much differently than you would ordinarily after you get the first round post-Daconil done.

Anyway, I don't think from my limited experience that you have a bacterial problem so that's good news. I also don't think you've got the curly virus so that's also good. I think that the curling is just the stress, if you start to notice more problems with more severe curling you may indeed have it but I doubt it living where you do. I do think your plants will recover, they don't look that bad.

You may need to make a $25-$30 investment to get the soap, daconil/serenade, mulch, fish, and seaweed ferts but those bottles should last you at least through next year too since you only do a few plants. (don't know shelf life of organic ferts though) I buy the full-strength and dilute per instructions, much better value.

Good luck and hopefully others will have suggestions. This is just mine from what I've done and would certainly repeat if I go to battle with the nymphs again.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2006 at 10:14PM
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abufish(z10 CA)

As you suggested, I searched psyllid on google and confirm it is what I have. :( First year and meet these tough fellows! Anyway, I will try as you suggested and hope they recover from it.

We r in Albuquerque, NM, normally it is really dry and we didn't have any rain drop since spring, but last week it has been lots of heavy raining, I think it also contributes to my tomato's stress.

Thanks again for your help and typing :) It is great to know what the enemy is! Feels much better that someone has faced similar situation.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2006 at 12:48AM
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The recent heavy rains could also be causing leaf curl. Some leaf curl is normal from time to time caused by several different scenarios. The curly top virus will take out plants really quickly so I just don't think you have it from what I'm seeing and hearing from you.

BTW, the Daconil I recomended is because I see a lot of cankers (brown spots) on your stems. Not to help with the bugs, though I doubt they enjoy getting covered in the stuff. It's a good anti-fungal, won't help with bacterial infection but I don't think you have that. You might not even have fungal, the stems just don't look good to me, but a little Daconil won't hurt and might help prevent something else looming. Your recent rains in conjuction with the toxin from the nymphs sounds like fungal. That's also why a thicker layer of mulch will help keep junk that's in the soil from splashing up on your plants.

And do check around the forum for old threads related to spraying with soap, etc. cause I don't have much experience.

Don't be afraid to take off yellowing, diseased looking leaves or branches if necessary, they are common on the bottom. As long as you have quite a bit of healthy green growth on the top the pruning will help encourage new, healthier growth, plant no longer needs to waste energy on dying leaves. Towards the end of the season, this becomes a losing battle and wouldn't worry about it but you have some time to get your plants healthy.

Okay, good luck again. I'm hoping you don't find those nymphs everywhere. They are just devasting for sometimes, covering nearly every leaf, etc.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2006 at 1:21AM
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