Tomato ICU

Jarrod_King(zone 7 OK)July 11, 2005


I am writing to get any help I can to a problem that has beset all of my tomato plants (Better Boy, Silvery Fir Tree, Delicious, Early Girl, Celebrity, and Brandywine). The leaves have begun to curl on all of the plants and I cannot figure out why. I first noticed the problem a couple of weeks ago and sprayed with Daconil; it has not helped. I am horrified that I may lose all of my tomato plants! I don't think it is a watering problem as the plants have had plenty of water the past few weeks and the problem continues. I don't think the problem is insect-related, either, as I don't see any real infestation. I could be wrong, though. If anyone can help, I would be so grateful.

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nanelle_gw(9/Sunset 14)

I've seen several references to leaves curling, and I'm sure there are various causes, but I often attribute it to heat, If there getting enough water, there mg not be much else to do.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2005 at 10:53PM
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nctom(8 nc)

I copied this. This is from your neck of the woods.If all else is ok, curling of leaves upward is usually not anything to worry about.

RE: Ripe Tomatoes?
Posted by: OkieDawn Z7 OK (My Page) on Fri, Jun 3, 05 at 16:48

Hi OKPrairie:
Like everything else involved in growing tomatoes, leaf curl can be an indication of something serious, or not!

The most common type of leaf curl on tomato plants grown in our climate occurs when the weather goes from relatively cool and cloudy to very hot and bright, seemingly overnight. Of course, this type of weather change is extrememly common in Oklahoma anywhere from April to mid-June, but especially in May. Some tomato plant leaves may curl upward. These leaves may have a sort of tough, leathery texture. This is merely the plants' way of expressing its displeasure at the dramatic change in growing conditions. It can be a sign that the plant is struggling to adjust to the increase in heat/light. Most times, this type of curling will go away as the plants adjust to the hotter, sunnier weather.

Sometimes you'll see this type of leaf curl following a big rainstorm that is followed by full, bright sunny/hot weather. The large rainfall and bright sunlight afterwards can cause tomato plants to grow quickly, seemingly overnight, and I think the leaf curl is sometimes a response to the root system may not be growing as fast as the topgrowth of the plant, and the leaves curl as a sign of the imbalance between the root growth and topgrowth.

If the leaves on your plants are curling downward, though, and the edges of the leaves are rolling and the tips of the leaves seem excessively pointy, your plants may have experienced damage from herbicide drift, esp. if the herbicide used contained 2-4-D. This is more common than most people think. I have heard of tomato plants being damaged by herbicide drift from a herbicide sprayed 1/2 mile away from the plants. If this occurs, all you can do is wait it out and see if the plant recovers.

Curling leaves on plants that have mottled dark and light green foliage, with leaves that are smaller than usual, and somewhat distorted in appearance. can be a sign of Tobacco Mosaic Virus. Often the fruit itself will fail to ripen evenly and will have a mottled appearance. This is a serious disease for which there is no known cure. Remove and destroy affected plants. Do not compost them. Wash your hands after handling the sick plants and before touching anything else.

A relatively new disease in the tomato world here---I never saw it in Texas, but had it on some plants my second year in Oklahoma--is the curly top virus. I don't know if the curly top virus that affects the tomatoes is exactly the same as Beet Curly Top Virus, or if it is just somewhat similar, but the plants will look pathetic and then die. You will notice severe curling of the leaves. The texture of the leaves will seem sort of crinkly and leaf growth will be dwarfed. The leaves will cup upward and roll somewhat inward. If you look at the underside of the leaves, you may observe purple or purplish leaf veins. This disease is usually transmitted by leafhoppers as they migrate through the area. It is probably spread by other insects as well. If I have a plant or plants get it, I dispose of them immediately and treat the area for leafhoppers IF I am seeing them. Sometimes the leafhoppers migrate through and spread the disease, and by the time you see the disease on your plants, they have already moved on elsewhere. Some years I don't see leafhoppers at all. When I do, it is usually in late June or early July.

I'm sure there are many other reasons leaves curl on tomato plants, but these are the most common.

By the way, the leaf curl on my plants was on six plants, all of them the same type--Super Boy--and since this is my first year to grow this plant, I don't know if it is a common problem with Super Boy. As the weather has cooled and some rain has come, about 80% of the leaf curl has gone away.

Is anything else going on with your Brandywine other than the leaf curl? Is the foliage off-color or anything? Since you planted your plants late, the wilting may be a physiological problem indicating that the amount of root growth is somewhat inadequate in comparison to both the top growth and the weather conditions. If so, it will correct itself as the plants grow. I hope.

If you have further questions, let me know.


    Bookmark   July 12, 2005 at 12:01AM
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Jarrod_King(zone 7 OK)

Thanks for the responses. I don't think the problem is normal wilting, as it never goes away even with plenty of water. I suspect that "curly top virus" listed above may be the culprit. Several of the leaves do have purple veining. I'll check it out and see what I come up with. Dawn, why do you think I planted my plants late? They've been out for a very long time. Thanks for your suggestions! Very helpful. If anyone else has any input, I'd be delighted as well.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2005 at 8:35AM
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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)


it was nctom who copied the above from something that Dawn wrote, but it wasn't Dawn answering you.

Before deciding on Curly Top, and I'm not that familiar with it bgeing in OK, why don't you give a quick call to your local Ext Service and ask if it is a problem in your area.

Curly Top usually results in stunted plants as well, and is that the case? Doesn't lokk like it to me.

And I'd appreciate it if you'd ID the varieties shown in the various pictures.

I seem to see different symptoms on different of the pictures, especially picture #2 unless that[s the Silvery Fir Tree.

Have symptoms gotten any worse in the two weeks since you noticed this?

You say that adequate water has not relieved the condition, but have you seen any progression to foliage changing color in any way, or other symptoms?

TMV is out as a possibility, but CMV is possible and if it were herbicide drift damage, I assume you'd be aware of that.

I wish I had some better ideas for you right now, but to have all your plants react the same way and then not have anything progress does tend to possibly speak to an enviroinmental condition, perhaps.

Do check with your Ext Service on the Curly Top, not just for you, but I'd like to know as well. ( smile)


    Bookmark   July 12, 2005 at 9:15AM
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Jarrod_King(zone 7 OK)


Thanks for your reply. I was just about to email me county extension agent about this. As to the identity of varieties in the pictures, all of them except the third one down are Delicious. The third one down is Brandywine. The foliage does seem kind of gray with purple veining on some, which I've read is a symptom of Curly Top Virus.

Yes, symptoms have gotten much worse over the weeks since I began noticing this. At first just some slight curling and now the leaves are becoming very curled and the plants are beginning to appear stunted somewhat.

It is so frustrating to nurse plants from seeds and have the entire patch fall victim to this. From what I've read about Curly Top it says to pull up the diseased plants, but since it is all of my plants, I'll just have to let them tough it out. Does anyone know of a cure or weapon to help tomatoes fight viruses. I'm going to try aspirin in water as it has been suggested that that sprayed on the leaves stimulates plants' natural defenses.

I'll report back if I hear from my county extension agent. Thanks to everyone for the advice.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2005 at 10:07AM
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Jarrod_King(zone 7 OK)

My county extension agent has confirmed that my plants are almost certainly infected with Curly Top Virus. I never even saw any leafhoppers, the route of transmission. I've sprayed with the aspirin mixture; we'll see if it saves the plants. All other sources say there is no hope for plants with the virus. It seems the aspirin spray can fight Tobacco Mosaic Virus, so we'll see.

Here is an article my extension agent sent me concerning the virus if anyone would like to know more about this disease-
From the OSU Oklahoma Botanical Garden and Arboretum News, Summer 2003
By John Damicone and Richard Granthan,
OSU Entomology and Plant Pathology

Tomato Problem Identified in Oklahoma

Reports and samples of tomato plants with severely stunted, pale green and curled leaves with purple-colored veins have been pouring in from across the state. Levels of the problem are very high with over 50% in some plantings in western Oklahoma. About 30% of the tomato variety trial at Bixby is affected. This problem, which resembles a virus disease, has been observed almost every year in Oklahoma since the 1980s, but usually only isolated plants are affected. This year the problem is obviously more severe and widespread. Affected plants do not recover and die or remain stunted without setting additional fruit. For some time now, the problem has been attributed to feeding by the potato or tomato psyllid, which causes "psyllid yellows". In psyllid yellows, the immature psyllids or nymphs produce a toxin as they feed causing the damage. Reported symptoms of psyllid yellows are very similar to those observed on the affected tomato plants. In previous years, testing of symptomatic plants with a serological screen for several common viruses that affect tomato has been negative. The negative test results for the virus have supported the "psyllid yellows" theory. However, careful examination of affected plants this year has revealed no signs of psyllids or their prior presence.

The problem also closely resembles "curly top", caused by beet curly top virus (BCTV). BCTV has long been a problem in semi-arid regions of the Western U.S. BCTV is a Gemini virus for which available serological tests are not effective. This explains why previous virus testing has not detected BCTV. Using a commercial DNA hybridization test, and a PCR test conducted at University of California-Davis by Dr. Bob Gilbertson, we have recently confirmed the problem is indeed curly top, caused by BCTV.

Curly top disease has long been a severe problem on tomatoes in the states of New Mexico, Utah, California, Washington, and Oregon; and considered the most important disease of tomato in many of these areas. The disease has a wide host range, but is particularly sever on sugar beets, tomato, pepper, and spinach. Beet curly top virus (BCTV) causes curly top. The virus is in the Gemini virus group, which, are DNA rather than RNA-encoded viruses. Whiteflies spread most Gemini viruses, but BCTV is transmitted from plant to plant by the beet leafhopper, Circulifer tenellus. Both the virus and the beet leafhopper have very wide host ranges. Once acquired by the leafhopper, the leafhopper carries the BCTV for the remainder of its life, and thus long distance spread is common. Infected plants are usually scattered in a field. The beet leafhopper acquires the virus from infected crop plants or weeds such as wild mustards and Russian thistle. Only brief feeding periods (seconds) are required for the leafhopper to acquire the virus and transmit it to new plants. Plants begin to show symptoms about 7 to 14 days after they are first infected by a leafhopper. Tomato is not a preferred host for the beet leafhopper; however, the leafhoppers transmit the virus to tomato while sampling it.

Management of curly top disease is difficult. Efforts to breed resistance to curly top into tomatoes have been largely unsuccessful. All currently available tomato varieties are susceptible. Spraying tomatoes with insecticides does not control the disease because leafhoppers migrate from distant places and do not reproduce or remain in tomato fields. By the time migrating leafhoppers succumb to an insecticide, they have already transmitted the virus to the tomatoes. When symptoms of curly top become evident in tomatoes, the leafhoppers have long since moved away to other crops or weeds they prefer. Removing symptomatic plants is probably a good idea, but since the vector does not remain in tomato fields, there probably is little secondary or plant-to-plant spread within a field. Other management strategies have focused on using cultural practices that reduce the attractiveness of tomato to the leafhoppers. Widely spaced, vigorous plants grown in open areas where the plants sharply contrast with the surrounding soil attracts the beet leafhopper. In areas where curly top is chronic, dense plant spacing, shading, row covers, and intercrop-ping have been reported to reduce levels of curly top.

We are unsure as to what the future holds for this disease in Oklahoma. Even in states where curly top has been a problem for many years, levels of the disease vary greatly from year to year. It is suspected Oklahoma has had curly top for some time, but it has been misdiagnosed as psyllid yellows. The sporadic nature of this disease is thought to be the result of yearly variation in over wintering leafhopper populations and their migration pattern. It is currently unknown where the virus-carrying leafhoppers originated, or where over wintering virus sources are located affecting this year's tomato crop. #

    Bookmark   July 13, 2005 at 4:24PM
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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

Using a commercial DNA hybridization test, and a PCR test conducted at University of California-Davis by Dr. Bob Gilbertson, we have recently confirmed the problem is indeed curly top, caused by BCTV.


Thanks so very much for contacting your extension agent and also cutting and pasting the above article.

I see that it's been only recently that they've IDed Curly Top in OK and that fits in with what I knew which is that it had not been reported from OK before but did know about it in the other states mentioned.

I don't know that much about an aspirin spray but I do know that TMV and Curly Top are two very different viruses, so let us know how the plants respond.


    Bookmark   July 13, 2005 at 7:21PM
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Colorado_west(z5 W Co)

I came across this thread. We have curly top here in western Colorado. Did aspirin spray help? My Better Boy I do loose some and some Early Girl. Some varieties they will wipe out. Some they leave alone . Some agent say Roza, Columbia, Rowpac,Saladmaster others say none are resistant. Man at seed house here says none. All I can find is does not stay in soil, does not pass on the seeds. I do not save seed from sick ones any way. I never heard of it till two winters ago. Seen a piece in paper. About 60 miles south of me it had wipe out 9000 out of 10,000 she had planted. It was about putting growers under. Yes, they use to raise acres and acres of tomatoes here for the canner till it quit. Back in 60's I raised for the table and bought canning from the fields. This year I could see where the fleas came in from the west and south west and got the tomatoes. So was on west side of the tomatoes and on the bottom of the rows. I have not seen them Last year I pulled at least 150 tomato plants. This year I did not count.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2005 at 10:54AM
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I just stumbled across the thread, looking for answers to my sick tomato. It looks like we have the same curly leave virus here in Thailand too. I have been growing a few First Ladies here, and they have been doing great, except for one. It has the same looking leaves and has stopped growing for over a month now with three small tomatoes that are in suspended animation. I did notice that this plant earlier has small black flies/fleas that had been feeding on the stems of the plant, only saw these on that one plant. Must be the culprit. Thanks for the info, folks. I thought I had some kind of trace mineral problem in this weak tropical soil.

Chanthaburi, Thailand

    Bookmark   January 25, 2006 at 10:17PM
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Colorado_west(z5 W Co)

Eric, I wish I knew the answers to curly top virus. I am planning to plant a 1000 tomatoes this year. State and county agents say there is no sprays that will help.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2006 at 10:36AM
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i live in the very northern portion of arizona and have been experimenting with ridding my tomatoes of this hopper (in our area it seems to be the white fly relative) and just on a freak situation we found out that the flies are attracted to diesel fuel. we had spilled some on the tractor when filling it and within a few hours there were lots of these dead flies laying in the fuel. so i placed (very carefully) containers with the fuel in them around the tomato plants and found that it does attract the white fly. just thought i would share. the only trick now is to find some medication for those that have been bitten already.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2007 at 8:00PM
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I hope someone is still checking this forum! OK, so I have 4 tomato plants that have succumb to a horrible leaf roll. What is crazy is they look 100% worse than the pictures posted here. From very young they started to roll, now the plants don't even look like tomato plants because the leaves are so stunted. I have some pics but need to figure out how to post! I have been reading about curly top, but not sure.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2008 at 2:48PM
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I also hope this reactivates this thread. I live in Albuquerque, NM. I've pulled 6 out of 22 tomato plants this year. All with curly virus. The plants I have in the shade are fine. Apparently the leaf hoppers prefer bright hot sunshine. I had read this but only recently noticed that the ones that get shade most of the day are very healthy. Today I am replacing 4 san marzanos that are infected. I am thinking of covering the cages with a row cover. Not sure how long this will help since my brandywines and san marzanos are indeterminate. Have also planted lots of marigolds in the hopes of confusing the leaf hoppers.

Would love to hear how others are currently dealing with this problem.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2009 at 9:48AM
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All 4 of my tomato plants in my front yard last yr succumbed to Curly Top Virus (CVT): Old German, Better Boy, Black Krim, Early Girl, but none of my backyard ones:Sweet 100 cherry, Stupice, and a Japanese one.
When the leaf curling and purple veining 1st appeared on one plant, I brought a sample to a very good nursery with knowledgeable Master Garders here in San Jose, but they didn't know what it was that 1st visit. (Suggested it might be overwatering.) Back from vacation, I brought in more samples 3 wks later and a different MG ID'd it as Curly Top. By then the other 3 had it. Eventually, leaves were stiff, petioles arched, were smaller than normal, purple streaks on stems, purple veining and on leaf edges, curling spread from the top leaves to other parts and eventually leaves yellowed with purple specks and markings. Fruit prematurely turned "ripe" but was tasteless.
This yr, my Better Boy in front yard (in very LARGE pot) developed purple steaks on stems followed by purple veining and curling at about 4 wks after planting,start of May. I disposed of it via city trash pick-up, removed all the soil to quarantine far from my garden, disinfected all tools,pot, everything with bleach solution, and replanted in new soil, same pot. Same thing happened 5 wks later, and 1 of my 3 backyard tomato plants is just today showing some purple veining. I don't know yet if it will develop to look like CTV or turn out to be phosphorous deficiency - it's too soon to tell, but I'm not optimistic. It's planted in great soil I had brought in this year, sandy loam plus organic amendment. . All my plants were planted in great soil, new and different locations, and I use no chemicals (neither do my neighbors)-just alfalfa based fertilizer at planting time and fish emulsion at 1 month, just 1x. They were so healthy and had lots of flowers and fruit coming!!!

How does P deficiency look different? Is it a darker purple, and does the curling look any different?
Online I've seen lots of photos by now of all stages of CTV so I'm pretty good at recognizing it. It looks like the petiole might curve or arch and although leaves may be smaller In CTV plants, it's not rigid when it's P deficiency? There's a definite stiffness to CTV leaves - they don't "drape" loosely like on a healthy plant.

I went around to a large garden ctr at a home improvement chain and to 2-3 nurseries here, and I've seen quite alot of plants that to me look infected with CTV. I'm not sure, but I do see some varieties which may normally have some darkish purplish color along veins and stems, but look otherwise healthy, just like some roses have that deep maroon or purplish coloration (does anyone know?) and I also see plants that may be showing signs of high heat or abrupt temp changes and/ or phosphorous deficiency, but discounting those, mostly what I'm seeing is an awful lot of plants that look infected. On follow-up trips, I've seen plants deteriorate, finally yellowing with deep purplish veins, stem markings and purple specks and marks on yellowing leaves, and poor fruit, just like my plants looked last yr. I even spoke to the MG who originally ID'd the CTV and he agreed these plants in the nursery looked like CTV, he said, "unless it goes away." Which it doesn't. My neighbor bought one of those and had it in his front yard - he disposed of it 2wks ago. May be the source of my plant 's CTV.
Are we having an epidemic, and are people in the nursery business not up to speed on this serious problem? They seem to be selling sick plants. Worse, this is highly spreadable, it seems. Since symptoms don't appear until 7-14 days after transmission has occurred, it's possible to buy an infected plant that looks healthy.
When I bought my plants, I chose only plants that were newly arrived at the nursery, when there were no sick plants in sight, and were entirely green, not one bit of purple on them. Chances are, my plants became sick after planting, but think how discouraging it would be to have a crop of healthy plants, then when you add one that has been infected it spreads and wipes out your whole crop!!!
Anybody have any ideas? This is discouraging, and I may not want to grow tomatoes next yr.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2009 at 6:13PM
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I'm finding that the plants I have in the shade are looking very healthy. Yes, tomatoes need sunshine but so does the leaf hopper. This leaf hopper is the insect that carries the CTV from plant to plant. It picks the virus up from weeds that carry it naturally. It does not care for shade.

I start all my toms from seed in February. Also, the CTV does not remain in the soil or the seeds. If you purchase your plants from a nursery, you may want to keep them in pots for the 7 - 14 days it takes for the virus to show before planting in the garden. If they look healthy after that then plant, if not, take them back to the nursery and get your money back. Keep your receipts.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2009 at 10:58AM
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