Common Tomato Diseases: How To Treat Them Organically
Tomatoes carry a range of diseases, with 30 being the most common. With so much against them, its hard to believe that tomato plants are ever healthy.
The best defense is a good offense, especially when it comes to tomato plants. Your plants need good soil full of nutrients, and you need to water your plants regularly. Healthy plants resist diseases better than sick plants. Weeding and keeping your garden beds free of debris will help keep pests and diseases at bay.
The most important thing to remember is always to avoid watering your plants foliage, especially if you live in humid climates. Diseases tend to prefer damp, cool conditions fungi prefer these conditions. Its best to water in the morning to discourage these conditions.
Symptoms Of Septoria Leaf Spot On Tomato Plants
As the disease develops, the spots will get larger and may merge together. If you view them through a magnifying lens you may see the fruiting bodies of the fungus, which look like dark brown pimples. This is one of the symptoms that distinguish Septoria leaf spot from other leaf spotting diseases.
Although the symptoms usually occur in the older, lower leaves, the disease can develop at any stage in the tomato plant’s life. They may also appear on the stems as well as the blossoms and calyxes. One small bit of good newsthey rarely affect the fruits.
If untreated, Septoria leaf spot will cause the leaves to turn yellow and eventually to dry out and fall off. This will weaken the plant, send it into decline, and cause sun scalding of the unprotected, exposed tomatoes. Without leaves, the plant will not continue producing and maturing tomatoes. Septoria leaf spot spreads rapidly.
The Spruce / K. Dave
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How To Treat Septoria Leaf Spot
There are a few options for treating Septoria leaf spot when it appears these include:
- Removing infected leaves. Remove infected leaves immediately, and be sure to wash your hands and pruners thoroughly before working with uninfected plants.
- Consider organic fungicide options. Fungicides containing either copper or potassium bicarbonate will help prevent the spreading of the disease. Begin spraying as soon as the first symptoms appear and follow the label directions for continued management.
- Consider chemical fungicides. While chemical options are not ideal, they may be the only option for controlling advanced infections. One of the least toxic and most effective is chlorothalonil .
The Spruce / K. Dave
Not Just Bugs: Bird Problems
One final tomato problem is often mistaken for insect damage: birds. Some birds, especially crows, love to eat ripening fruit, and tomatoes are technically a fruit. Crows peck with their large, sharp beaks at the ripening tomatoes, ripping open gashes and eating partial segments from various fruits. Other birds and even squirrels may also be at work if you find tomatoes that look like they have bites taken out of them.
The best control for bird problems is a net. A large fruit tree net, available at your local home or garden store, can be draped over the plants. The net is an effective deterrent to birds and usually a good deterrent for squirrels, too.
Although this list of tomato problems is extensive, dont let it deter you from growing great tomatoes. The good news is that most of these diseases and problems still leave you with some edible tomatoes. And once you take precautions to avoid these diseases and pests in your future gardens, your tomatoes will continue to be fruitful and successful.
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How To Choose And Apply Fungicide To Tomato Plants
To keep your tomatoes healthy, thriving, and fungus-free,you can apply fungicide before any symptoms appear, and then continue treatmentthroughout the season.
Tomato fungi overwinter in the soil. They spread easily onto plants as water splashesup on leaves and stems, distributing pathogens. While these diseases cannot becured once they attack a plant, they can be controlled.
Better yet, you can prevent them. To give your tomato plantsa greater chance of resisting fungi, set up an anti-fungal treatment programand implement it early in the season. You can continue to treat plants tocontinue to prevent later fungal infection and to minimize any damage caused byfunguses that chance to take hold.
Bonide Copper Fungicide Rtu
- Best for early tomato blight
- Can also be used for the following plants: Roses, fruits, nuts, herbs, vegetables, turf, and ornamentals.
- Active ingredient: Copper sulfate and copper octanoate or copper soap
- Treatment for the following fungal diseases: late tomato blight, leaf spots, anthracnose, black spot, peach leaf curl, rust and, downy mildew
- Pros: Its in a ready-to-use formula which is perfect for those who are busy and dont have much time on their hands. The packaging is already in a spray bottle so youll just need to spray it on your plants. The formulation does not burn plants. This product can also help control insects like whiteflies. Helps cure tomato plants that are in the early stages of fungal disease.
- Cons: The product is not too effective on fungal infections in the roots of the plant since it is not thoroughly absorbed by the plant. It can be toxic to animals but proper after-use and handling will do the trick. Rain can wash off this product so you have to re-apply it again. It also may not be able to cure your tomatoes if the fungi disease has already spread to most parts of the plant.
- How to use: It is recommended to use this product as soon as your tomatoes reach 3 feet tall and spray your plants weekly.
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The Life Cycle Of Blight Fungi
The blight spread through spores that can germinate in temperatures between forty-seven degrees and ninety degrees Fahrenheit. The spores also need free water and humidity greater than 90% to grow. When the spore lands on a leaf, the first signs of infection will show after at least five days. There are different ways a spore can move around the farm. Some of the transference methods include human contact and water.
What Is Tomato Blight
What is tomato blight? Its actually three different fungi that attack tomatoes in three different ways at three different times.
, also called leaf spot, is the most common blight on tomatoes. It usually appears at the end of July with small black or brown marks on the lower leaves. While fruits may remain uninfected, the leaf loss can affect yield as well as exposing the fruit to sunscald. Overall, it is the least harmful tomato blight. Solutions to the problem include watering only at the base of plants, and avoiding the garden while foliage is wet.
Early blight appears after heavy fruit set. Rings resembling targets develop first on the leaves and cankers soon grow on the stems. Black spots on the almost ripened fruit turn into large bruised spots and the fruit begins to fall. Because the crop is almost ready for picking, this may be the most disappointing tomato blight. Treatment is simple. To prevent tomato blight from invading next years crop, burn everything the fungus may have touched including fruit and foliage.
Late blight is the least common blight on tomatoes, but it is, by far, the most destructive. Pale green, water soaked spots on the leaves quickly grow into purplish-black lesions and stems turn black. It attacks in rainy weather with cool nights and quickly infects fruits. Infected fruits show brown, crusty patches and rot quickly.
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How To Organically Treat Nematodes
Unfortunately, controlling and treating nematodes is difficult. In most cases, you need to actively prevent nematodes because control methods tend not to work as well.
Here are some suggestions.
Five Easy Ways To Get Rid Of Fungus In Mulch
Did you know that mulch can also create a great habitat for fungi? Many fungi are actually inherent components of this diverse, biological ecosystem. And when fungus develops on mulch, you may want to get rid of some of it. YELLOW FUNGUS is mostly just unsightly but can be left to run its course. The most dangerous type is ARTILLERY FUNGUS, which should be eliminated as soon as practical.
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What You Need To Know About Tomato Fungi And Fungicides
Fungal diseases in tomatoes start without any signs. When signs of fungus show up, its probably too late for your plant.
Fungi and bacteria can stay in the soil even winter passes and their pathogens spread through water splashes on leaves and stems.
Certain weather conditions and improper planting practices give the fungi a perfect condition to attack your tomatoes.
So, its recommended to anticipate that the fungus is just around the corner waiting to attack your plants. Prevention is key to a fungi-free tomato.
Using fungicides ahead of time can give you peace of mind knowing that youve protected your tomatoes even when fungi attempts to attack them.
Most fungicides are also designed for prevention rather than a treatment for heavily infected plants.
Here are some helpful tips about tomato fungi to help you prevent the spread or treat your plants with a fungicide as soon as possible:
Choose The Suitable Tomato Variety
There are tomato seeds in the market that will give you a crop resistant to tomato blight. The only way to know which sources to pick off the shelf is to read the fine print. If you pay close attention, you will notice the seeds that offer a blight-resistant crop they might be a bit costly, but they are worth the extra coin.
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Use Natural Aphid Predators To Save Your Tomato Plants
Although aphids and spider mites persistently try to kill your tomato plants, there are two main predators that feast on these unwanted pests.
One of aphids natural predators is the ladybug. Ladybugs consume nearly 50 aphids a day, so releasing these beneficial insects repels aphids effectively.
To get rid of mealybugs, spider mites, moth eggs, thrips, and whiteflies, implement green lacewings into your garden.
Green lacewings are vicious predators and consume unwanted pests that attempt to eat the nutrients from your tomato plants. Add a dill plant in your garden to attract ladybugs and green lacewings.
Tomato plants are a wonderful vegetable to grow in your garden. There are many benefits to growing tomatoes. They are great companion plants, they do not require that much effort to develop, and they produce fruit that is a versatile ingredient.
However, some pests attempt to steal the nutrients from your tomato plants, so you must know how to create a homemade tomato leaf spray to deal with them.
What Causes Tomato Blight
Both forms of blight are caused by a fungus in the soil. When the fungus spores get splashed up onto the plants stem or leaves, it takes hold and its then just a matter of time before the whole plant is infected if nothing is done about it.
The fungus loves damp and warm temperatures. So it will usually be dormant in winter and only become a problem in mid summer when temperatures warm up. Late blight gets its name from being especially prevalent in late summer.
So all of these control measures in this article cover controlling the fungus and trying to keep it off of your plants.
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Stake Your Tomatoes Plants
Always use drip irrigation instead of overhead irrigation for the tomatoes. Most gardeners have advised that staking does a great job drying out the plant base and reducing the level of contact between the leaves and spore-contaminated soil. If you are wondering what staking is, it is a technique that involves inserting a stick beside the plant to provide support for it as it grows. The tomato plant especially needs this to flourish as it has a week stem.
If you decide to use chemicals to combat blight, ask your supplier to alternate between the chemical families as often as possible. This prevents the pathogen in question from developing insensitivity to ingredients in the chemical mixtures. How the gardener goes about applying the chemical is also crucial.
Blight Resistant Tomatoes The Varieties You Should Plant
Because blight has become such a problem, tomato propagators have been working hard on breeding more blight resistant tomato varieties.
Any good seed catalogue will list as part of the seed description if that tomato variety is resistant to blight. Note that no seed company can guarantee a tomato variety is completely immune to blight, so you still need to follow the other methods in this article.
But at least with these varieties you have more of a chance in fighting blight. Here is a list of suggested varieties.
- Defiant this large determinate red tomato has good resistance to early blight and very good resistance to late blight
- Legend another large determinate plant that is resistant to both blights
- Black Plum an heirloom indeterminate variety that is dark-skinned and has good resistance to both kings of blights
- Black Krim another dark indeterminate heirloom that is moderately resistant to both types of blight
- Aunt Ginnys Purple similar to Black Krim
- Red Currant an indeterminate cherry tomato with good resistance to both blights
- Matts Wild Cherry another cherry with even better resistance than Red Currant
- Yellow Currant/Yellow Pear a small pear-shaped tomato that also is excellent at being resistant to both types of blight
For even more information, check out Late Blight Management in Tomato with Resistant Varieties from the Cooperative Extension System.
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The Types Of Tomato Blight And The Symptoms
There are two types of blight that can hit tomatoes.
Early blight can cause the lower leaves to yellow and brown spots to appear on the leaves. The fruit can also be affected, getting brown lesions and can drop off the plant.
If kept unchecked could affect the whole plant over time. Usually you will get lower harvests but in some cases the whole plant could die.
Late blight actually will kill your plants in a short time. Unlike early blight, if a plant gets infected its toast! Basically the plant starts to look like it has been burnt by the sun. In a short period of time it will simply wither and die.
You can try and pick the unripe tomatoes that are on the vine when you see the first symptoms of late blight and then have them ripen off the vine. But if you pick them too late they likely will be infected and rot away while you are waiting for them to ripen off the vine.
Control Measures For Fungal Diseases In The Home Garden
There are a number of cultural practices that can be used to help reduce tomato disease in the home garden. The first cultural practice is to remove old plant debris. Fungal spores can overwinter in infected plant debris and on weeds related to tomato, such as horse nettle, ground cherry, and night shade. During the next growing season overwintering fungal spores are splashed from infested tomato or weed debris in the soil on to newly planted tomatoes restarting the disease cycle.
Proper sanitation measures can keep spores from infecting the next crop. At the end of the growing season all tomato refuse should be removed and discarded, composted or tilled into the soil. Thoroughly burying the residue will keep the spores below the soil surface and away from tomatoes.
Crop rotation is another means to help reduce disease in tomato plantings. Each year plant tomatoes in a new location away from areas where tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes or peppers have grown in the past. These vegetables all have similar disease problems. A minimum rotation of three years is considered essential to help reduce populations of soil-borne fungi.
Watering should be performed in the morning to allow sufficient drying time. The use of a soaker hose to irrigate completely eliminates regular wetting of the leaves.
Preventative fungicides can also be used to control fungal diseases in the home garden. Always read and follow directions on the label.
For more information: njaes.rutgers.edu.
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Preventing Verticillium Wilt Of Tomato
There is no fungicide that can be used to treat verticilliumwilt on tomatoes or other plants, so prevention is necessary to avoid thedamage this disease causes. First, start with resistant plants. Resistantcultivars are available and have the letter V after the name to indicatethis.
Verticillium fungi will easily spread from one plant toanother if you arent careful. Practice good sanitation when you haveinfections. Keep your tools and equipment washed and disinfected between usingon affected and clean plants.
Also important is croprotation. If you keep planting susceptible crops in the same soilyear after year, the fungus will build up and cause repeated infections. Someof the more vulnerable plants in addition to tomatoes are potatoes,strawberries,eggplant,and melons.Plant cover crops, grains, or corn in off years to reduce the fungus in thesoil.