Getting annoyed at whatever's eating my tomato stems...

julia42(9a)February 29, 2012

Something's chewing down my tomato plants and I'm getting pretty peeved. The weird thing is, it's not taking the smaller plants like I would expect of a cutworm. It's gnawing at the base of stems of the bigger plants - the ones that are already about a 12"-18" tall and wide, with thick 1/2" stems. The stems are sort of half-way gnawed on and hollowed out, so that the plants fall over. It reminds me of what the holes look like from squash vine borer (I know that doesn't affect tomato plants, though).

Does anyone have suggestions as to what this might be? Would cutworms attack the largest plants? I haven't found any cutworms around the plants - only lots of pill bugs. I know in other threads, people swear up and down that pill bugs won't eat healthy plants, so I don't know... Thoughts?

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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Right at the soil line or how high up the stem? Mice and rats will do that if it isn't at the soil line. And don't rule out cutworms completely as they will often ignore one plant and take another. Slugs/snails is another possibility tho the damage is usually right at of just above the soil line.

Have you tried any of the stem protection methods? What works may often reveal who the culprit is.

Dave

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 5:24PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

julia42, I don't think you have a stem borer, but in case anyone would like to know about them, here are a couple of links:

Photos and info on page 3: http://www.btny.purdue.edu/Pubs/vegcrop/VCH2009/VCH508.pdf

More info on the bug here, but not tomato-centric: http://ipm.ncsu.edu/ag295/html/stalk_borer.htm

I had a stem borer once, about a foot above the soil. There was a small entrance hole, and the stem above that point stayed narrow and never got much longer. After a few weeks I just cut it off.

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 11:23PM
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julia42(9a)

Actually, I think I may have found the culprit. Let me know if you think I'm way off.

I found a few flea beetles in the vicinity of the hacked plants. I have a pretty heavy straw and leaf mulch around them, and my guess is that larvae in the mulch hatched and chewed at the stems for a while. I've found pretty minimal leaf damage, but I've read they can damage stems too... I may go pick up some DE.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2012 at 9:07AM
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