What kind of tomato problem is this?

Daisyjoy5(7 _ NW GA)June 18, 2014

This plant was doing just fine, then all of a sudden it started wilting and it has yellow leaves on bottom and brown leaves on top. There are a few tomatoes on the plant that seem to be OK. I've looked at pictures and can't quite determine what this is... maybe early blight?

All other plants look fantastic and are now towering over this poor thing. Should I chop this down? Is this problem likely to transfer to other plants? Thanks in advance!

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Those leaves look virus-y to me. Have you been seeing thrips in your garden? This reminds me of Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus, which is spread by thrips.

Let's see if someone else can confirm or deny those suspicions, but I enlarged the photo and I think I can see signs of virus in quite a few of the leaves.

If it is TSWV, you will have to pull the plant. Keep an eye on other plants too.

The fruits are still small and I can't see them too well in the photo, but if you see mottled indentations that could be another sign.

Let's wait for other opinions, though, in case my eyes are misleading me.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 9:44AM
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Daisyjoy5(7 _ NW GA)

I just had to google what thrips are... :)

I don't know... I haven't really noticed any, but then I wasn't examining very closely. I assumed it was just an issue with this one plant since out of 23 plants, this is the only one with this problem. But I am very concerned about potentially affecting the others, so I'm also interested in other opinions...

Thank you! I will look up more information on thrips and the virus you mention.

Here is another picture... may be more helpful to see full scale?

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 9:55AM
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Daisyjoy5(7 _ NW GA)

Oh, so if I pull the plant - are the tomatoes edible? They are small, but I'd bet they wouldn't be half bad fried up! :)

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 9:59AM
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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

If it's just one plant and the others are OK, what's different about that one plant,meaning did you raise it from seed,did you buy the plant, and in either case where did you get the seeds from and where did you get the plant from?

I'm just suspicious since it's just the ONE plant affected.


    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 10:16AM
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Daisyjoy5(7 _ NW GA)

Yeah I find that weird too. The six largest plants I bought while seedlings from my local nursery and they were all part of the same small flat. The other five are doing great. All of the other plants in the bed (strictly tomatoes and two sad basil plants) I grew from seed, and I got them from Johnny's seeds. They seem to almost be catching up to the bigger ones. I did it that way because my seedlings weren't growing fast enough for me so I bought some babies to have an earlier initial harvest.

I assume if I have to pull this I need to ensure I get the root system as well? And could anything else then be planted in its place? How do I protect the rest of my plants?

I've been doing some googling but it seems there is a lot of conflicting information out there...

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 11:00AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Has the plant been sprayed with anything? Bug sprays, fertilizers, anything? Has any weed killer been used in the yard? Have you poured anything around the base of the plant, like a fertilizer? Examine the stem below the damage closely for any signs of damage or injury.

Sorry but I need to know that before getting on the disease bandwagon. And the answer to the rest of your questions all depends on first finding out what is happening to this plant. IME 9 times out of 10 it is something that has happened or been done to that plant rather than one of the viral diseases.


    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 12:08PM
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Daisyjoy5(7 _ NW GA)

I've used no sprays, no fertilizers, no round up or anything anywhere close (the only place we've used that is at least an acre away). The main stem appears to be healthy; it feels solid and firm and is still green with no obvious spots. The side branches, where the leaves are brown, have some very small brown spots where the leaf meets the stem but it took some close examination to see those...

I did put mulch around the bases about a week or so ago, but this plant was already starting to look a little sickly then so I don't think that's it. At first I thought it was just too much water since we were getting so much rain, but the others seem to love the weather lately so I'm a bit mystified.

The ONLY thing I've done is to put a bit of Irish Spring in the corners of the bed... but I have that everywhere else too (in my other garden bed, bean patch, and onion patch) and don't seem to have any problems. (I split one bar of soap between my two main garden beds, so it wasn't a lot)

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 12:16PM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

Possibly suggest cutting off the bad parts of the plant and spray with a fungicide. It looks like there are some healthy unaffected parts still remaining, and it might re-grow.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 1:06PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Thanks for the quick reply.

So we have 1 plant out of a six-pack of store-bought plants that is doing poorly while the other 5 are doing well. It hasn't been sprayed with anything and shows no signs of stem damage.

That pretty muck rules out any viral disease as the odds of this one seed or one pocket of soil being contaminated are slim to none.

It also rules out herbicide damage although herbicides can drift for over an acre the odds of it hitting only this one plant from that far away are slim. Direct contact with that plant after spraying with hands or clothes or the sprayer is a possibility

That leaves pests or root damage of some kind to that plant. No sign of pests. Root damage to that one plant in no way threatens the other plants (even RKN would show in more than 1 plant) or anything else you choose to plant there. Soooo....choices -

pull the plant, examine the roots for any kind of damage, toss it and forget about it OR

trim off the damaged branches and leaves and leave it, monitor it and see what happens. If it recovers, great. If it continues to die off, pull and toss it.

Should similar symptoms begin to develop in the other plants then the odds of there being a soil or seed borne viral disease increase.

Fungicides - I use them routinely from day of plant out as I know from years of experience I will have the airborne fungus diseases if I don't and this wet year it is even more important for me to use them. Your choice to begin a regular spraying program of them or not.

Hope this helps.


    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 1:40PM
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..."trim off the damaged branches and leaves and leave it, monitor it and see what happens. If it recovers, great. If it continues to die off, pull and toss it."

Have to agree. (and i'd go ahead and fry up those baby fruits) : )...just because i'm jealous and weeks away from any plant that size.

I like to see a bit of straw mulch to keep thing off the ground and keep the soil a bit cool in hot temps, but you seem to have kept the lower leaves high.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 1:54PM
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Daisyjoy5(7 _ NW GA)

Thanks Dave, that is really helpful! I think I will try that... kind of like dead heading my flowers or cutting down basil? I guess we'll see what happens.

I was discussing some of this with my other half earlier and he said that he was looking around this morning and saw a lot of ants around the garden beds - and that my zucchini seems to be dying.

Could ants do something like this? Not sure what kind of ants they are, but whether they are related to this tomato problem or not they have to go! I may just have to bite the bullet and get some sprays - fungicide and pest control... I was really hoping to not have to use anything at all - I'm not necessarily "organic" per se but I have been so far. Ideally I'd keep it that way, but I'm also a realist and know that sometimes you just have to take care of things. Ha!

Do you have a recommendation for a fungicide?

Thanks again, I really do appreciate the helpful advice I've gotten here so far!

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 2:37PM
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Do you smoke?

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 3:27PM
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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

Do you know if the nursery where you bought the 6 pak raises all their own plants? I assume there were 6 different varieties in that 6 pak. Ifmso, they may be contracting out to local growers to supply plants and the one you got had been infected before being put in the 6 pak.

And to me it suggests the possibility that where that one was grown there might have been some systemic disease problems. If so, it isn't going to spread to your other plants, but may innoculate that area with spores of either Fusarium or Verticillium, both of which are possibilities.

good fungicide? If a systemicdisease I dont know one but if it were a fungal foliage disease, which it isn't, well, that's a different matter.

It still bothers me that it was only one plant out of a 6-pak that was infected, I think, so all I'm doing is raising some other possibilities.

And if it is a systemic disease I'd get that plant out of there AsAP and destroy it, forget about any anti-fungals.

Carolyn, who has spent the last several hours doing bills, which she hates to do, but better than seeing someone on the doorstep threatening her. LOL Which has never happened and never will, actually.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 3:37PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Do you smoke?

It isn't TMV (tomato mosaic virus) which has not been an issue in the US for decades anyway (unless you happen to smoke imported Turkish or Russian cigarettes).

Daisy - ants are normally considered a beneficial in the garden or at worst a neutral unless they are fire ants. So look elsewhere for any plant problems rather than the ants. :)

If the zucchini is dying it is far, far more likely to be squash bug nymphs or squash vine borers.

There are any number of organic fungicides available both online and in any of the big box stores. The link below shows you many of the brand names. I garden organically but I do use Daconil as I have found it to be much more effective in my climate than any other.


Here is a link that might be useful: organic fungicides

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 3:40PM
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Daisyjoy5(7 _ NW GA)

No, I don't smoke.

My local nursery buys the plants, they don't grow them. I just assume that the 6 cell pack I bought was all from same seed but who knows.

I do keep the lower leaves trimmed, because it seems they grow faster/better when I do so.

So I've decided to follow the advice here and just cut the damaged part off, which was basically the whole top of the plant. I suppose we'll see what happens - I plan to watch it carefully for any signs that it continues to decline - if so, I"ll pull it up immediately.

Here is a picture of the plant after I cut it - really, the leaves look pretty healthy as far as I can tell.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2014 at 9:36AM
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Daisyjoy5(7 _ NW GA)

Oh and in case this helps, here is a close up of the babies.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2014 at 9:37AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Take the green wire twist off the stem. It is girdling the stem. Do not apply them in that fashion. It can cut off circulation to the plant above it.

If you are going to use that type of tie apply them in a loose figure 8 pattern instead.


    Bookmark   June 19, 2014 at 10:26AM
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Daisyjoy5(7 _ NW GA)

Ah... Thanks Dave. You can't really see it there but I did make it really loose so it has room to grow. I actually thought I had bought something different, like a cord or string, but when I opened the package and discovered wire I was surprised... but I went ahead and used it while I was out there. :) Everything I've tied I've done loosely because I was concerned about it cutting into the stem so I was already planning to go back and use my garden string instead. I have mostly used the wire to tie the other cages together.
(Triangle folding cages)

This is the setup I had this year for tomatoes... I might expand this next year and use concrete mesh for the cages. My babies are catching up to the first planting rather quickly.

As essentially a newbie, since this is only my second year with a real garden, I am grateful for all of the advice here. It is truly a great group of knowledgeable folks!

    Bookmark   June 19, 2014 at 11:04AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

The problem is the stem continues to grow in diameter plus it needs to expand and contract freely in order to pump the water and nutrients up. So what seems loose when applied can quickly become too tight without you knowing it and restrict or even cut off the circulation to the top of the plant.

Wire, string, whatever needs to be very loose and never completely encircle the stem which is why the figure 8 knot works so well. It allows free movement within the loose loop when it is windy and can't cut into the stem.

Or if you don't want to buy the made-for-tomato plant soft tape or velcro ties then use flexible ties of some type like most do - 1" strips of fabric, strips of nylon hose, wide strips of plastic grocery bags, etc.


    Bookmark   June 19, 2014 at 11:33AM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

On Tying Tomatoes:

I rip my old knitted T-shirts (Mostly greenish color ones) and tie tomatoes with it. I don't even like the so-called garden twines. They are rough. It is not just how loose or tight you tie them, it is the contact form that in winds and strong breeze can (possibly) injure the stem.

About the subject plant: I think you've don the right thing by cutting the top off. I would go even one step further and remove all the remaining fruits and let it direct its energy to growing branches.

This post was edited by seysonn on Fri, Jun 20, 14 at 0:29

    Bookmark   June 19, 2014 at 12:43PM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

Looks good now! Can't help but think something got splashed on it. Can already see new growth. I think it will regenerate really fast. Onward and upward.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2014 at 1:37PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Everything the plant lost was newer growth, and it lost all the newer growth it had at the time. However, current new growth is healthy and damage-free.

Only leaves were damaged; stems were not damaged. [I can't tell whether younger fruit were damaged or not.]

What does that?

I'm leaning toward edweather's Can't help but think something got splashed on it -- and yet, the stems weren't damaged....

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 1:00AM
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Daisyjoy5(7 _ NW GA)

I can't imagine what could have gotten on it! An acid rain bubble directly over that plant? ;)

I did cut the babies off last night and re-tied the stems so we'll see how it goes from here.

*side note: picked a few greens from another plant and had our 1st batch of fried green tomatoes for the summer. Mmmmm.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 9:58AM
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