Your shopping cart is empty.

Green Zebra, wilting branches

June 11, 2008

I started a thread about bugs on my tomatoes in my native GA forum, and I feel like it's mutated into a wilting thread and gotten a bit too specific for that forum, so I'm moving over here.

I have been growing tomatoes for ~3 years now, and for the first time ever, I purchased a couple of heirloom plants from a local store, and, coincidentally, this is the first time I've seen bugs or strange growing problems with my plants. Another person in that same thread I linked above happened to buy from the same store, and the exact same varieties they purchased are having similar issues; albeit there are slight differences from mine.

Long story short, it looks like both of the green zebras I bought have some kind of wilt; It is not affecting any of the other tomatoes. I don't know what kind of wilt it is, or if maybe it's something other than wilt.

A few key points:

* There are four tomatoes/three varieties in the same bed (2 x green zebra, 1 x mortgage lifter, 1 x red cherry)

* This new extended bed is brand new, isolated, nothing ever grown here previously

* It was filled with ~16cu ft. of Miracle Grow Garden Bed soil; 48" x 48" x 12" (L x W x D)

* They are not watered daily, soil is moist under the surface, but not saturated

* There are two other tomato varieties in the same bed, just a foot or two away, with no wilt problems

* There are no signs of moles or other pests in my yard

* This location gets at least 6 hours of aternoon sun every day.

* The tomatoes had several 1mm-2mm beige spider/beetle bugs on top of the leaves as reported in the thread linked at the top of this post (more details given there)

* No excessive # of pests are visible now, although I've seen a couple of what I think are assassin bugs, maybe a white fly or two (they're either ultra-small or dead), and some shell remnants of the 1mm-2mm bugs

* I have a lot of ladybugs, wasps and other good stuff nearby to control pests either way.

Here are two photos of the two plants in question, with the wilt:

I know these aren't the best pictures, they were taken with my Blackberry. Note in the first picture that most of the leaves and branches look amazing - and no bugs - but there are also complete branches just starting to wilt, or fully wilted. The first one looks like it has two small cankers or something on the side, this is how I bought the plant. It was one of the last ones left, and I jumped on it.

In the second picture, note that some of the branches that are wilted are coming off of a main stalk, and the rest of the main stalk is fine, as are the other branches coming off of it. It's like ... it's completely random.

I don't see any holes in the branches, although there are a lot of "pimples" on the stems of the plant, more so than the other nearby tomatoes, but I just figured this is normal for this variety? I'm tossing it out there just in case.

I am going to post these over on the tomato or heirloom forum to see if I can get anyone who has seen something like this. I found a page via Google that talks about green zebra wilt in North Carolina, but it's dated June 2006. Could it be related? http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/chatham/ag/SustAg/tomatowilt06.html

Anyone have any thoughts? I can snap better photos tomorrow if needed. I admittedly have pruned off a couple of the dead/wilted branches. I didn't notice anything odd about the cross-section of the stem, but admittedly I wasn't looking too closely.

Any guidance is appreciated :)

I'm in Atlanta, very near to downtown, if this matters.

Comments (4)

  • carolyn137

    If only the Green Zebras are wilting and all other plants are not, under the same conditions, and if the other person who bought the same plants from the same nursery and is having the same problems, then that suggests to me the possibility that the seeds used for GZ were contaminated with a seedborne disease.

    There are all sorts of weather related situations that can cause wilting, but you've clearly said that all other plants are OK.

    Foliage diseases do not cause wilting, but systemic diseases can cause wilting. So can pathogenic nematode infections but this is a new bed and nematodes are not seedborne.

    And if it is a systemic disease infection, such as Fusarium for instance, if it were me I'd pull out those two plants ASAP so that there's minimal contamination of the soil in that bed.

    I admit that I didn't look at the pictures or what you posted elsewhere b'c of your saying that the wilt was only with GZ and that another person with GZ from the same nursery was having the same wilt problem.


  • satellitehead

    Is there any way to definitively identify what the infection is? I.E., if I dig up the plants, pot them, and carry them into my local extension office? Maybe some other method?

    I'd prefer not to destroy the plants until I have an absolute clue what is going on. Have you ever seen wilting like the examples provided in those two pictures I linked up?

  • carolyn137

    I did look at the two pictures and yes, I have seen wilting like that and with the fungal disease Verticillium which usually causes one sided wilting and often the plant outgrows the infection, but no always. With Fusarium the leaves almost always turn yellow.

    I found that link to NC about GZ diseased plants to be very interesting and at that point all they'd tested for was Bacterial Wilt which is another disease where leaves stay green with wilting.

    If I were you I'd try to contact someone off that site and see what further work has been done and if a diagnosis has been made.

    Tom Wagner bred GZ and it's been around for about 20 years now and until today I've never seen any association of GZ with what you and NC describe.

    Which makes me think even more strongly that someone somewhere has been distributing seed associated pathogens with GZ.

    Do see what NC has to say and let us know what you find out.

    In the meantime I'd pull and destroy the plants.


  • satellitehead

    i'm going to make an effort to get in touch with the vendor i purchased from and trace back to where they came from; see if others who've purchased are also reporting problems. i dn't expect that everyone whod've bought would actually come back to the store and complain.

    i'm so hesitant to destroy the plants. i was so looking forward to my first year of growing heirlooms. my major concern is having this taint my bed and screwing up future plantings. i am going to give it a week, and if it continues, i'm thinking i am going to pull and destroy them.

    if anyone stumbles upon further info or reads this and can update, i would really appreciate it. meanwhile - carolyn - thanks a ton for your feedback.

Need help with an existing Houzz order? Call 1-800-368-4268 (Mon-Sun).