Garden Talk

with Rebecca Jordi

Q: Help! Of all the tomato problems, I’ve seen, this one is new to me.

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Tomato spotted wilt virus

Tomato spotted wilt virus

A:  This looks like the dreaded Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus (TSWV) which is transmitted by a small insect vector called thrips. The virus is transmitted to the fruit by the thrips piercing into the leaf and removing the plant fluid then injecting the virus into the plant.  This virus has very wide host range, including tomato, pepper, potato, tobacco, lettuce and many other plants. Small, brown spots will show up on the leaves of the tomato first and we generally ignore them as they seem common to most vegetable plants.  Ultimately, the spots turn brown then the whole leaf will die and droop or wilt on the stem. If you are scouting the green tomato fruit, you may see the next symptom which will be rings of yellow or brown with a lighter green color.  Once the fruit turns red, the rings will be dark brown.  Some successful cultural controls: use highly reflective UV mulch (metalized mulch) around tomatoes; control weeds in and around tomato or pepper fields; do not plant tomatoes and peppers near TSWV susceptible crops such as peanut or tobacco.

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