Common Diseases of Tomato Plants in Burke County

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Tomato Series – Article Four

To be such a popular crop, tomatoes certainly are finicky! There’s not enough paper or ink to talk about all of the diseases they attract. But, today we’re going to look at the most common diseases for Burke County tomatoes. Some just might surprise you.

The most common disease in our area is early blight. This is caused by a fungus that lives in the soil. Rain is splashed up on lower leaves and stems and the disease moves right up the plant. The oldest leaves develop ringed spots with a yellow halo. Browning of leaves also occurs as does sunken lesions on the stems. Affected fruits will develop sunken spots and as the disease moves up the plant, harvest is severely compromised. Continued applications of products containing mancozeb and fixed copper will give good control of the disease. Plants should be well spaced for adequate air movement and crop rotation should be practiced. Mulching of newly planted transplants will also help to control the splashing of water on the lower leaves.

Early Blight on tomato plant

Early Blight

Blossom end rot is another common ailment of our tomato crops. This isn’t a disease but a calcium deficiency. Symptoms include rot on the blossom end of the fruit. Blossom end rot is caused by the lack of the plants’ ability to take up calcium through the roots. Improper pH, irregular watering and tilling too close to the root system can cause this problem. A temporary fix would be to apply a calcium spray to the foliage of the plant. Soil testing can help correct pH imbalances and keeping plants well-watered is also helpful.

Blossom End Rot on tomatos

Blossom End Rot

Herbicide damage is also a common ailment to tomatoes. Tomatoes are highly sensitive to drift from weed killers that have been sprayed in other areas. High humidity and wind can cause these products to drift, damaging delicate tomato plants. Deformed leaves and buds along with stunting and lack of growth are signs of this problem.

Herbicide damage on tomato plant

Herbicide Damage

While there are many more disease problems that affect tomatoes, these are the ones that I get the most calls about. Remember to space plants properly, giving them plenty of room. Water regularly and do a soil test every few years. Rotate your tomatoes each year and check them often. The earlier problems are detected, the easier the problem is to control.

One more way to fight disease problems in the garden is to by disease resistant plants. When you see letters after the name of the plant such as V, F, FF, N, these are indicators that the plant is resistant to certain diseases. While heirloom varieties are popular, modern tomatoes have much more disease resistance. It’s worth thinking about.