Tomatoes are a favorite vegetable to grow in a home garden. Even people who live in spaces that offer them little or no outdoor land space often find space to grow a container tomato plant. Regardless if the plant is grown in a container, on a city balcony, or a 20 acre farm the plants are all susceptible to one specific disease – the Tobacco Mosaic Virus (ToMV).
As spring approaches and gardening season gets into full swing, learn what this plant-destroying disease is and how to protect all your garden tomato plants from it.
Symptoms, Causes and Cures Tomato Plant Tobacco Mosaic Virus (ToMV)
Tobacco mosaic virus is a prolific fungal disease that attacks tomato plants, several other garden plants and flowers. Garden tomatoes are the number one host plant for the disease and it will spread rapidly from tomatoes to other plants. The virus does not pose any health threat to humans or animals. ToMV will destroy an entire crop of tomatoes, as well as other growing vegetables if left unchecked.
The newest plant foliage will be the first to show the symptoms of ToMV.
The virus will manifest as yellow streaks (mottling) on the tiny new leaves. Plant leaves may also develop blisters and/or begin to resemble the leaves of a fern plant.
As the virus spreads throughout the plant, leaf edges will begin to crinkle. The yellow blossoms will become discolored. If the plant is allowed to live with ToMV, the few tomatoes produced by the diseased plant will be blemished, oddly shaped and inedible.
It’s in the best interest of your garden to uproot and discard the infected plant(s) and start a new crop of tomatoes in the space.
Causes of ToMV
The virus enters tomato plants (or other susceptible plants) by physical contact. This can come from a human or an insect. When plants are touched for routine garden care, like planting, transplanting, suckering or produce harvesting, an open wound can occur on the plant.
An open wound can occur somewhere on the plant or on the developing produce if an insect lands on the plant for a meal. If a human who has used tobacco in any form (chewed, dipped or smoked) and not washed their hands prior to coming into contact with a wounded tomato plant, the residual tobacco on the hands will enter into the wound and cause the tobacco mosaic virus.
Insects which have recently visited a tobacco patch or landed on a discarded cigarette or other used tobacco product, will carry residual tobacco on its body. The residual tobacco will be left behind on the plant. When the insect lands to eat, the tobacco mosaic virus will have a new plant to attack.
ToMV can also be transmitted to tomato plants through soil absorption. When discarded cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco or any other form of tobacco are deposited on the ground, the tobacco leaches into the soil. If tomatoes are planted in or near that area, the plants will absorb the tobacco and become infected with tobacco mosaic virus.
An ounce of prevention is always worth a pound of cure. The only way to prevent the virus from being passed from human to plant is by hand washing prior to gardening. There is no known cure for ToMV, only prevention.
If you’re a tobacco user or live in a home with a tobacco user, wash hands with soap and warm water before touching tomato plants. Don’t smoke or chew (or allow others to) around the garden.
Once a tomato plant has become infected with tobacco mosaic virus, the only thing to do is remove the plant from the garden and discard it. It must be disposed of away from all other garden plants.
Don’t place diseased plants on compost piles or lay them curb-side where insects might possibly land on them. Wrap diseased plants in newspaper and place inside a plastic bag until trash day. ToMV has been shown to remain alive and viable for years inside of dead plant matter. It can easily be spread through insects to your garden for years to come, unless infected plants are properly disposed of.
If the virus spreads, remove and discard all infected garden plants. Rake soil to remove all diseased debris and discard. Place plastic sheeting on top of soil and allow garden to lie fallow. Let it cook under the sun and plastic covering, until the next growing season. This will kill the tobacco mosaic virus which may be lurking in the soil.
So, what are your favorite tomato varieties to grow? I’d love to hear about these in the comments section.
You might also enjoy my posts 8 Exotic and Fragrant Perennial Plants to Try in Your Garden, How to Grow and Cook Purple Potatoes and Tantalizing Relish Recipes to Make.
Until next time,
Here’s a gardening book I’ve found very helpful