bahram03

Tomato leaves narrow and brittle. Disease or bugs?

Ariel (Zone: 7b)
June 6, 2019

I transplanted about 2 weeks ago. I think its a brandywine, will have to check later my labels. It gets full sun.


This morning I sprayed it and all my vegetable plants with Daconil Concentrate Fungicide. I also checked for bugs and found only a handful of aphids. There was also a few of these red bugs that I don't know what they are.







The red bugs




Comments (50)

  • sautesmom Sacramento

    I'm not sure what you are worried about? What iooks wrong with the leaves? It looks healthy to me. The bugs are scattered, I wouldn't worry about them
    Carla in Sac

  • laceyvail 6A, WV

    Looks fine to me too.

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  • Ariel (Zone: 7b)

    Compared to all my other tomato plants the newer leaves look thin and weak. They also curl instead of being broad and flat







  • rhoder551 zone 9b-10

    What's on the other side of the fence? Looks like possible herbicide damage or maybe aphids. I would not pull it out, just keep an eye on it... it might grow out of the problem.

  • Ariel (Zone: 7b)

    Neighbor's grass and playground. He just redid his lawn and I am 99% sure he doesn't any herbicide. There is a lot of weed that grows right along the fence that I have to pull by hand all summer long.


    I checked for aphids and will continue to check. There wasn't enough of them for it to be an alarming amount. The bugs I saw the most of and in a cluster are those red bugs. I am hoping it grows out of it. I sprayed it to help defend it from some type of disease. I go through each leaf looking for bugs and eggs to squash. I then hose down the whole plant to get anything I missed.

  • vgkg Z-7 Va

    It might be a viral disease called Curly Top which is said to be spread by leaf hoppers. I have 3-4 tomato plants hit with it this season, no herbicides used here but both problems look similar.

  • Ariel (Zone: 7b)

    If itsit's leafy curl what do I do? Daconil does not list as aomething it protects against under tomat diseases.

  • gorbelly

    Herbicide can drift quite a distance, and depending on air currents can affect one plant and not the one next to it. It could also have been in your mulch. It's fairly common for wood mulch to be contaminated by persistent herbicides used to kill weed trees.


    If herbicide or virus, nothing you can do. If the herbicide injury is light, it may outgrow the damage, though it'll be delayed behind your other plants, but it's a virus, it won't recover, and it can serve as a reservoir of disease that can be spread to other plants by aphids, leaf hoppers, thrips, etc., depending on the disease. I'd pull it and buy a replacement plant, since it's still early enough to do that.

  • gorbelly

    Also "just redid the lawn" sounds like a prime candidate for herbicide use. And many common weeds are resistant to herbicides now, whereas tomatoes are especially sensitive to them.


    I'd pull the mulch away from the area, too. You can test it for herbicide residue by doing a bioassay with some peas or any spare tomato starts. Not 100% accurate, but usually pretty good at developing hormone analog type herbicides.


    Manure is also a common culprit for herbicide contamination.



  • Ariel (Zone: 7b)

    Too much weed grows in his yard for it to be herbacide. He redid it last year and pulled everything out by hand.


    I also have beans right next to it that would have shown signs if itvwasit was herbacide.


    If itsit's a virus how do I make sure before I pull out the plant?

  • gorbelly

    Once again, it doesn't have to be from that neighbor. Herbicide can drift on the wind in weird ways from other areas on the neighbor's property besides the lawn or from other properties and just hit a narrow and random patch of your garden. It could be from residue in sprayers or even on gardening equipment that volatilizes on a warm day and drifts. It can also be in manure, mulch, etc. Tomato plants are extremely sensitive to hormone analog type herbicides--far more sensitive than most established weeds. The amount it takes to injure a tomato plant is often not enough to affect weeds at all.


    Curly Top Virus typically manifests purple veining. Viruses that affect tomatoes usually come with some kind of discoloration/chlorosis/mosaic/mottling or lesions on the foliage.


    Herbicide damage is much more common than viruses.


    It's hard to get a definite virus diagnosis in the absence of ID of the pests that carry the viruses (often difficult, since they can transmit the virus without being noticed) or very classical symptoms of a specific virus, which I don't see there. Doesn't mean it's not a virus, since they don't always manifest classically--it just means it's doubtful that anyone will be able to give you a 100% definite diagnosis without genetic testing. It's cheaper, easier, and faster to replace the plant before it gets too late in the growing season to do so.


    Just make sure you get rid of the mulch in the area of the affected plant, because if it's a case of herbicide contamination of the mulch, it could continue to affect whatever other tomato plant you put there afterward, as herbicides used on woody plants tends to be very persistent, unlike something like Roundup/glyphosate.


    Or you can just take your chances and hope it's *light* herbicide injury and the plant will recover on its own and that it's not a virus that could be transmitted to your other plants. Virus transmission tends to be kind of random anyway, so you could also take the chance that, if it IS a virus, it won't end up being transmitted to other plants.


    Either way, nobody's going to be able to tell you 100% what to do here. It's a judgment call. In the first week of June, I'd personally replace the plant. But if it's herbicide injury, it might recover, though it will probably be far less productive overall than an uninjured plant would have been. That's all I can tell you.

  • John D Zn6a PIT Pa

    Some Brandywines have potato leafs instead of the traditional tomato leaf. I think that's what I'm seeing.

  • gorbelly

    That's not normal potato leaf foliage at all.

  • lgteacher

    Tiny red bugs on the underside of the leaves are spider mites. They are sucking insects and reproduce rapidly, so get rid of them asap. Hose the underside of the leaves or use neem or spinosad. Broad spectrum insecticides such as Sevin will cause more problems because they will wipe out even the beneficial insects. Spider mite populations bounce back more quickly than the beneficials. http://ipm.ucanr.edu/QT/spidermitescard.html

  • gorbelly

    The little reddish bugs are way too big to be spider mites. They're baby aphids. Aphids start off small and then shed their skins several times as they grow larger. A very common pest of tomato is the potato aphid, and they can come in green variants or that rusty pink color, and that's definitely what you have in that picture. If you have lots of little red baby aphids, then your aphid infestation is worse than you think. Aphids can cause leaf curling. By the jagged "sawtoothing" edges on the foliage, I still think it looks likely to involve herbicide, but the aphids may be aggravating leaf curling.

  • gorbelly

    Uncurl the curly newer growth and inspect it carefully to see exactly how many aphids you have. If you don't see a heavy infestation, then the aphids are not responsible for the leaf curling. If, on the other hand, you have a heavier aphid infestation than you thought, then wash off the aphids or use something like neem or insecticidal soap to address them and cut off heavily infested growth, and wait a week to see whether new growth is coming in normally or is still distorted.

  • sautesmom Sacramento

    If you even suspect herbicide, I would replace it , in a different place. Presumably you want to eat these tomatoes, you would be crazy to knowingly eat ones contaminated with herbicide

  • Kg Tg Zone 6b IL

    I have this every year with certain varieties. Over fertilizing,weather,growth rate all can be a contributing factor. It can also mean the top growth of the plant is not yet in balance with the roots. Especially, if they are fairly new starts. I would watch and observe daily. When I was hit by herbicide years ago , the planted twisted and wilted. Many opinions here. Best of luck With your garden!

  • gorbelly

    Fruit from backyard tomatoes with herbicide injury aren't necessarily going to taste great, but they're not going to kill you. Herbicides can be dangerous in an occupational setting when you're exposed to large amounts of it chronically in the long term, but it's not something to be afraid of in a situation like this. There's nothing crazy at all about eating fruit from a tomato plant that has managed to outgrow herbicide injury. Unless you live out in the middle of nowhere and have no neighbors and never work anywhere near any landscaped property, you probably get more exposure daily to these sorts of herbicides just from your environment.

  • Ariel (Zone: 7b)

    Thank you for all the responses.


    Friday I inspected the plant again. There were a few scattered aphids that I killed. Did not see any more of the red bugs, that someone said are young aphids. Along the stems, I did see green balls/dots that looked like either aphid secretion or eggs. I tried scraping them off lightly with my finger. Then I spread some DE on it and nearby plants. Before trying DE I also tried spraying them with a diluted mixture of Pure-Castile Liquid Soap - Peppermint all around the stem and leaves.


    Herbicide: I know that the neighbors to my side do not use them. One has too many weeds in his yard to be using them. The other is a vacant house. Other people, I do not know about and it is a possibility. In past years I never had an issue like that but things can change.

    Mulch: I am using cocoa husks I get directly from a small shop. They grind the cocoa in house and let me collect the husks. My guess is that they do not have any herbicide on them or at least would have been washed off before they make their chocolate with them. I have used it last year and its all over my yard from the same bags.

    Replacing: I am considering it, but don't want to unless its my best option. The plant has started to flower. I am waiting for the rain to end to get new pics of it. I haven't seen it get worse so that should be a good sign.

    Variety: I do have it labeled as a Brandywine. Some of the leaves have the potato type leaves but most are the standard tomato. Not sure why. Maybe this vendor did a poor job marking the plant or this is some hybrid?


  • sautesmom Sacramento

    Some vendors sell "Red Brandywine", which is not Brandywine, and is regular leaf.
    Carla in Sac

  • gorbelly

    The normal-leaf red Brandywine may well be the original Brandywine. It's a variety sourced from Amish people in PA, where the Brandywine Creek is. There was a red version being called "Red Brandywine" with potato leaves, but the authentic "Red Brandywine" variety has regular-leaf foliage. This is not to be confused with Yellow or Pink Brandywine strains, most of which have potato-leaf foliage. Whether they actually share the same heritage as the Red Brandywine from Amish country is unknown. Tomato histories tend to be murky and often imaginative. Regardless, all produce tomatoes with excellent taste.


    When I said those aren't "normal" potato-type leaves, I meant that the potato-leaf variant is not shriveled, curly, and ragged looking like your leaves. Here are photos of undiseased leaves of "Green Giant", which is a potato-leafed variety.





  • John D Zn6a PIT Pa

    OP's leafs look like yours, perhaps not as big. But not normal tomato leafs.

  • Ariel (Zone: 7b)

    I will post an updated photo tomorrow. All pics I tried today were overexposed.


    This is a pic of the label.



  • gorbelly

    Brandywines that are pink are almost always potato leafed. Which your plant definitely is. But it's not the potato-leaf trait that's causing the curling, stunted, jagged leaves, because normal potato leaf foliage that is not diseased or injured by pests or herbicide don't look shriveled like that. Not even rugose potato leaf dwarf foliage. That was what I was trying to convey. I was also trying to point out that Red Brandywine with regular leaf foliage is not inauthentic; in fact, regular leaf foliage is a trait of the authentic Red Brandywine variety. But yours is not Red Brandywine.

  • Ariel (Zone: 7b)

    I took these pictures this morning. The only good sign iI see is that it has flowered. Other than that iI dontdon't see any real improvement. ImI'm going to buy some more plants today. I am leaning towards cutting my losses short and replacing this. May give it away to a friend who is growing nothing.
















  • gorbelly

    The already stunted leaves will never recover. And plants that have herbicide injury or are infected with viruses will often still flower, but the fruits they do manage to set will be distorted and not taste right. To know whether the plant is recovering from herbicide injury, you need to look at the newest foliage. If it continues to grow in stunted, curled, and jagged, that's a bad sign.


    Don't give it away, as it'll just fail to thrive in a new environment, especially after being dug up and disturbed at this stage of development. And if it's a virus and not herbicide, it could serve as a reservoir to infect other plants in your friend's neighborhood.

  • Ariel (Zone: 7b)

    I will take a closer look at it. I wasn't able to tell what is a new leaf this morning while trying to get in some quick pictures.


    I didn't think about his neighbor's. My only thought was on how he is growing nothing and would be a good place to leave it and see what happens. If the new leaves are growing normally what would you do from your experience?


    I bought several Sweet Millions today. for $3. It was either that purple cherokee, red brandywine, or mortgage lifter. Those though seem too late to plant now. I also don't have any cherry tomatoes. If I do remove this plant I will put the sweet million in place of it.

  • Ariel (Zone: 7b)

    For comparison. This is the same variety that I bought from the same vendor. I transplanted them both the same time with 3 feet apart from each other. This one is doing much better.



  • sautesmom Sacramento

    Sweet Million is one of my go-to tomatoes of the 75 varieties I grow. You would be much better off with that, especially since you bought two Brandywines, so you will at least have some Brandywines. Sweet Million gets huge, so make sure you give it a strong cage while it's little!
    Carla in Sac

  • Ariel (Zone: 7b)

    My plan is to put put bamboo poles between each tomato plant in this bed. Do the florida weave. In addition to that tie yarn to from the bamboo to the fence every foot for added support. And in worse case scenario I could support tall branches with yarn to the fence.


    And 75 varieties! wow I barely can fit 40 plants in my backyard.

  • cindy_7

    I've planted tomato plants as late as July 4th and they produced very well here. Not sure of your location, but we're in Northern Virginia.

  • Ariel (Zone: 7b)

    I am in NYC. By September the weather isn't that warm for tomatoes to grow rapidly. Anything that is 70+ days is basically late IMO for my area.

  • John D Zn6a PIT Pa

    I set out 4 beefsteak seedlings in mid June last year. That's 2-3 weeks after my normal date. They started producing in early September, which was my intention. That's a month late for the producing. This year my plans are to plant 3 seedlings in mid June which is Saturday, and then one each week to the end of the month. I'm guessing that the pattern of the production coming more delayed than the planting date was delayed. And I'm assuming that the later plantings will be delayed even more. I'm in zone 6a, SE PA.

    I found that you get a big rush of tomatoes when the plant first starts producing. I also found that the blight/Septora problem I've been getting also is delayed till after the plant produces its first big rush of tomatoes.

    This is a good plan if you want to do your canning when it's cooler or if you have a farm market.

  • sautesmom Sacramento

    In Sacramento Sweet Million gets 4 feet by 5-6 feet, but then we are prime tomato ground, that's why the canneries are here. Yours might not get that big, but that's what I mean by huge.
    Carla in Sac

  • gorbelly

    You can grow late tomatoes in NYC. I have friends in the city whose tomatoes continue to produce well into November as long as there isn't an early frost.


  • Ariel (Zone: 7b)

    I have done it before as well. Started from seed in June and got a decent amount. At this point i would rather put a quicker mature date tomato and introduce some type of cherry/grape tomato to my mix.


    Everything else I am growing is a big tomato. (Red brandywine, mortgage lifter, purple cherokee, lebanese, and I forgot what else)

  • gorbelly

    Cherry tomatoes are a delight. I always make sure to plant a couple cherry varieties. A good cherry variety can concentrate a level of sugar and acid that larger tomatoes just can't. It's a good plan to replace the plants with something that will give your crop more diversity.

  • Ariel (Zone: 7b)

    I have not been feeling well enough to pull out the plant. It needs to be done by tomorrow so it can go out for collections on Wednesday. What is the best way to remove it?

    i am thinking I prune it back and put the cuttings in a bag. Cut the roots with a hand shovel or shovel. Pull it out and throw out the soil with it. This way if anything was in the roots they also get thrown away.


    Side question: Anywhere I have used the cocoa mulch there are so many of these flies. Besides for their presence bothering me do I have any reasons to be concerned and need to do something to get rid of them?




  • gorbelly

    That's how I would get rid of a plant.

    The flies look like they might be fungus gnats. They love substrates like coco coir and peat. You can get a granular BTi (not BTk, which is what gets used for caterpillars) and water it in, but the easier and cheaper option is to get mosquito dunks or bits, which have the same stuff in it. Let it soak in some water overnight and then water using that water. Keep a container with bits/a dunk always soaking it in and use that water for the next few weeks. The BTi kills the larvae, not the adults, so you need to use it long enough to break the life cycle. Or scatter the mosquito bits on top, and they'll water in when you water or when it rains. The latter can result in the bits molding, since they're usually made of corn or something similar. Usually, they're not that big a problem on outdoor plants and spiders and other predators control them well outdoors, but I'm guessing the excessive rain we've had on the East Coast this year is causing more problems than usual with them. A heavy infestation will mean a lot of larvae, and they eat plant roots, so it's worth doing something about them.

  • Ariel (Zone: 7b)

    Thanks! i will look to see what I can find at a home depot or something nearby. In another area all i see is tons and tons of shimmering from their wings. After I do get to kill them what can I do to help reduce them from coming back? And is there another option if I can't find BTi?


    Yesterday I put out vinegar for them. Quickly learned today that the real issue is the eggs and vinegar traps won't kill those.

  • gorbelly

    Vinegar works for fruit flies, but not for fungus gnats. Another possibility is that they might be winged ants coming out for their mating flights. Do you have ant colonies in your containers? If so, they're not a threat to your plants.


    There's really no substitute for BTi. But, as I said, BTi is in mosquito dunks/mosquito bits, and pretty much every garden center/home improvement store carries those these days.

  • gorbelly

    Fungus gnats look like this and the way they fly is somewhat similar to mosquitoes, although they'll be faster than mosquitoes in warm weather. https://www.maximumyield.com/fungus-gnats-the-cause-the-problem-and-the-answer/2/2087

    If you look in your mix in your pots, you'll see their transparent maggots. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/57f32906f7e0abe5df5634f9/t/599a404ff7e0abf8e325a4bd/1503281241172/fungus+gnats+larvae?format=750w

    Winged ants, OTOH, look like ants with wings.

    However, after watching your video again, those really look like fungus gnats to me. Very lively, super happy fungus gnats, but definitely fungus gnats.

    You can deter fungus gnats in drier conditions by keeping the substrate as dry as possible and trying strategies like putting an inch of sand on top of your pots. But with an infestation that's already this bad and in this wet weather? Forget it. Get the mosquito dunks. They're non-toxic to wildlife and, just as BTk only affects caterpillars of moths and butterflies, BTi only affects the larvae of long flies like mosquitoes, blackflies, fungus gnats, etc.

  • Ariel (Zone: 7b)

    My local HD does not have BTi or the dunks. I need to order it online.


    I don't think I have winged ants.


    This is rain is a killer. It rains heavily almost every day. With no end in sight.


    The containers of vinegar attracted a bunch of them. The weird thing is that even the larvae were able to hatch in the vinegar and then died off in there. Its crazy how many are in there and are still hanging around the mulch



    This is what I could order from HD to be delivered. No store pick up last I checked:

    https://www.homedepot.com/p/Mosquito-Bits-30-oz-Granular-Biological-Mosquito-Control-117-6/206940251

    https://www.homedepot.com/p/Summit-12-in-Mosquito-Dunks-6-Pack-110-12/100334779

  • gorbelly

    If you have an ACE near you, they're likely to carry it.

  • gorbelly

    If your plants are dying from root damage, you can do an emergency drench with diluted hydrogen peroxide to kill some of the larvae. But it's better to wait for the mosquito dunks if you can. It works way better and risks no damage to plant roots.

  • Ariel (Zone: 7b)

    They plants are thriving with no issues. One tomato plant looked a little weak and has grown strong even with these around.


    I do have an ACE somewhere. Depending on when they open I could go on Monday

  • Ariel (Zone: 7b)

    I pulled some weeds around my tomato and beans today. These are the flies and their larvae that I saw.Looks like fungus gnats.


    I also kept seeing a few of these beetles and was unsure if I should kill or let them be. (I did kill the baby slug from my video)







  • gorbelly

    I wouldn't worry about the fungus gnats in the ground. They have enough predators that, now that things will be drying out a bit, nature will take care of them.


    Containers are a different situation. But if the plants look ok, there's no emergency. They're more a danger to younger plants, but I would personally still do drenches with mosquito dunk-soaked water for a few weeks because they're still a stress on the plants' roots.


    I don't know what species those beetles are, but there are many types of ground beetles that look like that, and they're generally neutral bugs that eat decaying organic material or even beneficial predators. Many eat slugs and other pests, while others eat weed seeds. I wouldn't worry about them.

  • Ariel (Zone: 7b)

    Its funny that two pots I mulched and have the gnats are doing the best. They look like they are weeks ahead of the rest even though I transplanted other of the same variety at the same time.

    I think they have not gone down past the surface. Tuesday I removed the original tomato that had the issue. Today I dug out a hole to transplant the new tomato and didn't see any larvae in the ground.

    I am done for the day and since we are supposed to have 2 days of no rain and sunshine I sprinkled some DE to help.


    And thanks for the help and being patient with me!

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