How To Control and Prevent Diseases/Problems in Tomatoes
There is nothing sweeter than biting into a ripe tomato right off the vine. Caring for tomatoes can be difficult when the plant becomes plagued with disease and problems. Now is the time to arm yourself with information about threats that can attack tomatoes! Having the knowledge in your arsenal gives you the upper hand to tackle problems.
Where Did the Tomato Come From?
The tomato dates back to the 15th century where it grew wild in the Andes region of Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia. A prehistoric migration of Indians carried species of tomatoes from the Andes to Mexico. The tomato eventually reached North America and Native Americans began cultivating them.
The early settlers transported the tomato back to Europe where it gained momentum traveling the world. However, when European aristocrats ate tomatoes, they soon became sick and even died! The tomato was nicknamed “poison apple” because of this. What they didn’t know was that the pewter dishes they served tomatoes on contained lead. Tomato acid caused uptake of lead into the tomato causing lead poisoning. Whoops!
Later in the 18th century, tomatoes caught on around the world becoming a widely consumed item. Today there are many varieties of tomatoes grown in the U.S. where tomatoes are a staple of many people’s diets!
Tomato Problems: Prevention Is Key
Unfortunately, as most gardeners know, growing great tomatoes can be difficult because they are prone to a wide variety of diseases and problems.
However, there is hope! Knowledge and prevention play large roles in the defense of possible diseases. It’s vitally important to be one step ahead of problems.
The first defense in keeping disease and problems at bay is prevention. Prevention includes being proactive with good cultural practices and chemical treatment when necessary. Educate yourself on diseases and problems. This will equip you to be able to look for any issues.
Some good preventative practices are:
Check your plants daily for any signs or symptoms.
Plant cultivars that are resistant to diseases.
Rotate planting areas each season.
Use fungicides before disease can hit.
That said, many diseases and insects will still push through no matter how hard you attempt to prevent them. At that point, it is essential that you identify the issue properly and use control techniques specific to that disease or insect.
For the remainder of this article, we will look at some common tomato problems and give you some control mechanisms for each one.
When in doubt, shoot us an email or contact your local extension service for more information or help.
Tomato Diseases and Problems
Without further ado, here are some of the worst diseases of tomatoes!
Damage/Impact Meter: 10/10 This disease is severe causing fatality in plants. Once it takes hold of a plant/garden, it is impossible to eradicate. Using a chemical control as a preventative may keep contaminated insects from spreading the disease. Type of Disease: Bacteria Pathogen:Ralstonia solanacearum Symptoms:
Discoloration of leaves (yellow, brown)
How The Disease Is Spread:
Through contaminated insects that feed on the tomato plant.
Bacteria overwinter in the soil. Contaminated insect eggs are laid in the soil emerging as new carriers.
Cultural Control: A few cultural controls will help to impact this disease.
Remove all dead/decaying plant matter immediately and discard in trash. Do not compost.
Sanitize garden tools to prevent the disease from being spread to other plants.
Rotate planting areas. The bacteria survive in the soil for a few years, so it’s important not to plant in the same area every year.
Damage/Impact Meter: 4/10 Type of Disease: Fungus Pathogen:Septorialycopersici Symptoms: (will not affect fruit)
Lower leaves begin to exhibit small spots with dark bordering and beige centering.
Tiny black specks are present in the center of the spots.
Yellowing of leaves.
How The Disease Is Spread:
Splashing plants either through watering, overhead irrigation, or rainfall.
Overwinters on plant debris.
Spread tomato plants out to avoid overcrowding.
Stake/cage tomato plants upright to ensure good airflow Keep area free of weeds.
Remove dead/decayed plant matter from ground. Do not compost it but throw into garbage.
Clean/sanitize all gardening tools to prevent the spread of the disease.
Plant cultivars that are resistant to disease.
Rotate crop/garden to a different area for a minimum of 3 years. Remove all plant debris after growing season. Do not compost.
Don’t use overhead irrigation or splash water when watering.
Chemical Control: Bonide Fungonil It’s best if used before leaf spot hits because it stops spores from germinating. Fungicides work best as a protectant and should be used BEFORE issues strike if possible.
Prevents blossom end rot by adding calcium to soil
Continuously feeds plants
Formulated to produce juicy tomatoes
As you can see, tomato diseases are a real problem! While there are resistant varieties of tomatoes that can be planted, giving you a little more peace of mind, these cultivars vary in their resistance to disease. Unfortunately, there aren’t any tomato hybrids that are 100% resistant to all diseases.
That said, good cultural practices in place will help ward off the heavy hitters of disease and problems in tomato plants. When you do encounter disease, we hope this helps give you the knowledge and the tools in place to fight back!
Blake, J., Keinath, A., Kluepfel, M. (2018 December 13) Tomato Diseases & Disorders, Clemson Extension Home & Garden Information Center, Retrieved from:
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