Plant Disease Help (Beans and Tomatoes)

June 11, 2019

Good Evening,

I've run into a pretty significant problem it seems. I've tried to diagnose it myself and unfortunately, I think I've arrived at the culprit. However, I figured I'd reach out to you all for confirmation and additional insight. I respect your opinions so much and it seems this will have a pretty drastic impact on my garden.

I would really appreciate it if you could check out the attached photos and let me know what you think. Does this look like Mosaic Virus to you?

This first started with my bean plants. Growth became stunted and they virtually stopped growing up my trellis for 2 weeks. No signs of the Mosaic yellowing pattern anywhere, however, the leaves became blistered and mottled. New leaves were narrow and twisted. However, some plants began to flower and produce beans that looked normal, but like I said, were no longer climbing up the trellis. I made the decision to pull all the bean plants for fear this would spread to my other plants. Just figured I would start more beans and have plenty of time to get some harvested before the end of the season. I cut the vines and pulled the roots up as much as possible. Wiped down/disinfected my trellis netting with a soap/water/bleach mixture and started more bean seeds from a different batch of seeds (just in case the previous seeds contained the virus).

Thought I was good to go to resume a fruitful season. However, now it seems this has somehow spread to many of my tomato plants in another raised bed. I don't know if I didn't clean my shears properly/enough and transferred when pruning or if I somehow spread the virus via my hands. We had an extremely hot and dry week and a half here in southeast VA, followed by an extremely wet week with constant rain. I was hoping maybe this had something to do with the plant's reaction to the weather, but everything I've read online leads me to believe its mosaic virus. I also spray with a mixture of organic neem, peppermint, marigold oils, and organic soap mixed with water as a pest deterrent every 7-10 days. Not only am I worried that I'll need to pull all my tomato plants, but I'm worried this could linger in my garden and make it unusable in the future, as I've read not to replant in an area the virus has affected. Unfortunately, these two beds are almost all of my gardening space I have available.

Please let me know what you think/suggest? Does this look like mosaic virus to you?

Please let me know if you need any additional info. I'm happy to post more pictures if needed


Comments (21)

  • windberry zone5a BCCanada

    Herbicide damage?

  • LoneJack Zn 6a, KC

    The beans look like it could be the start of bean mosaic virus. If the leaves start to pucker and then you will see mottling of the leaves with light green and dark green patches. It looks like most of your older leaves have not been affected.

    Do you have a lot of clover growing around your garden? The aphids that spread BMV often are first hosted on clover or other weedy legumes and spread to beans. BMV virus can also be caused by infected seed. What variety of beans are they? It looks like some type of pole bean or half runner since you have them trellised.

    Some bean varieties (like Provider -bush) have high resistance to BMV. That is the reason I always grow Provider in the spring after having other varieties succumb to BMV. By the time my fall beans are growing in August, the aphid pressure is much lower and I can get away with planting most any bush bean variety.

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    Sure does look like herbicide. If it isn't packaged as a gardening product, always ask about the history of the compost, manure, or hay/stray you get. As Dave says, herbicide contamination is rampant these days - clopyralids or picloram. The stuff is plant-specific. It'll kill broadleaf stuff, but not grasses. It's sprayed on a grass field to suppress those broadleaf weeds, and the foliage grown there is contaminated with it. But that herbicide also goes right through the digestive system of animals. It is preserved in compost made from that foliage or manure. In fact, a few years ago, I got some cheap bagged no-name compost from a big box store, and the plants I applied it to all croaked. That no-name compost conspicuously disappeared from the big box store in a few months. The stuff does break down by soil microbial action, so your bed is not permanently polluted. It'll be fine next year.
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  • gorbelly

    This looks like herbicide injury. Remember that tomatoes and beans are extremely sensitive to certain classes of herbicide, and even trace amounts can cause injury. In most cases of injury, it's

    1) drift from when people spray elsewhere in their yard or neighbors spray

    2) from mulch, compost, or manure that is contaminated

    3) from equipment, especially sprayers, that have ever been contaminated with herbicide in the past

  • wvuphan

    Thank you all for your input. We bought the house last summer and this is the first year we've implemented a garden. Both raised beds are in close proximity to our neighbors property line, however, we do have a tall 8ft privacy fence to separate our yards. One of the raised beds was installed by the previous owners. It's an "L" shaped bed that hugs the privacy fence measuring 4.5ft wide, by 60ft in total length in an "L" shape. There were signs that the previous owners had tomatoes in this space, as I found an old Variety tag in the soil. These beds were filled with soil and mulch when we moved into the house. I purchased an additional 5 cubic yards of organic compost to top off these beds off and fill in the other two raised beds I installed (a 4ft x 12ft and a 6ft x 12ft).

    I haven't read much on herbicide issues, as I believed Mosaic was the culprit. Can the plants be saved, or would you recommend pulling all the infected plants? To this point they are still producing fruit that show no signs of infection. The only noticeable signs are the blistered leaves and stunted/twisted new growth. Is there anything I can do to the soil to prevent this from happening in the future? This would be a ton of dirt to move and get rid of if needed, however, I want to be able to use this space for years to come.

    The beans that were grown were 2 varieties of Pole beans from Baker Creek Seed Company (Rattlesnake Pole Beans and Blauhilde Pole Beans). I believe the Blauhilde where labeled as Mosaic Virus Tolerant, however, these were stunted the most. The Rattlesnake Pole beans were producing some beans even after showing signs of being stunted. Ultimately I decided to cut and pull all these for fear the virus would spread to my cucumbers trellised very close by on the same trellis. So far my cucumber plants have remained healthy and have shown no signs of infection. I ordered some other pole bean varieties from Southern Exposure Seed Company and have replanted them where the old bean plants were to see if the seeds were the issues. I'm going to plant some more pole beans in a different section of the yard to see how those do in an area away from previous contamination.

    Our grass in the yard does contain a variety of weeds, including what looks like a type of clover. I haven't been able to find tomato and pole bean variety seeds that have a high resistance to Mosaic virus. I may need to do some more research and plant these in the future. Thanks in advance for any additional input!


  • Camirra Williamson

    This does look like herbicide damage to me as well. i say this b/c this literally just happened to me about a month ago. I left some of my tomatos/ pepper that were affected in and they appear to be growing out of it. They are even setting fruit. I know mine was from wind drift from a neighbor. You need to determine if Its in the soil of from wind drift, as the approach would be differnt. If wind drift then there is no problem with you soil and you can decide to replace or let plant grow out of it. If soil, then you can decide if you want to get th soil tested for what herbicide was used.

    I would replant a few beans and wait a few days to see if they sprout and how they grow. If they show signs of damage then the issue is probably the soil.

  • wvuphan

    Something just occurred to me. While my garden is completely organic, we do however treat our yard for mosquito's every 3 weeks in the summer time. We live near a state park and mosquito's get quite bad. The mosquito service informed us that when they spray their non-organic treatment that they avoid areas around the garden and that our garden/plants, nor our dog or other critters would be harmed/affected by the spraying. They have an organic option that's a lot more pricey and isn't nearly effective per the service. With these suggestions, we chose the non-organic spray and have had two treatments thus far this summer. I don't remember the plants showing any ill effects before these treatments, but I could be wrong. Could anything in the mosquito treatments potentially be causing this? I may try to get some additional information as to what all is in this spray.

    Also, the beans and the tomato plants are the only plants that show any symptoms/issues in my entire garden. I have many varieties of pepper plants, beets, and pickling cucumbers in the bed that contained the troubled pole beans. Additionally, in the infected tomato bed, I have a few varieties of peppers, fennel, some basil varieties, and potatoes and bok choy near by in the other side of the "L" shape. Only the tomatoes and previously pulled pole beans showed signs of stress/issues. Is it possible that herbicide damage would only affect certain types of crops? I spend the most time handling/trimming my tomatoes, which is why I assumed I could have transferred a virus from the pole beans to the tomatoes at first.

    Thanks again for the added input! This has been a huge help!

  • gorbelly

    Tomatoes and legumes are especially sensitive to herbicide. Peppers and cucumbers less so, in my experience. Eggplants are pretty sensitive but better at outgrowing injury, from my experiences.

    In addition, herbicide drift is often unpredictable in the way it follows air currents, or mulch/compost/manure may not be homogeneously contaminated. My neighbor sprayed herbicide on a warm, breezy spring day like a fool one year, and the pattern of drift in my garden was pretty weirdly random, even skipping over some rows and beds to injure plants in the next one over, hurting one plant and not its neighbor, etc.

  • gorbelly

    Mosquito treatment shouldn't affect your plants. But you might ask whether they use weed killer of any kind to manage areas with lots of ticks, etc. or get rid of stands of invasive plants, weed trees, and so forth.

  • Marty (West GA, Zone 7b)


    I guess I shot myself in the foot "mulching" my garden beds with pine straw...

    All my tomato plants look like this:

    They did not grow at all over the month I was away, the leaves are curled around and thick, there's no flowers. Beans did not grow other than a few, cucumber and squash are oooook, and okra did not come up.

    I have new garden dirt from a local garden center. I did not have wheat straw but had leftover pine straw at hand and mulched with that...

    What do I do? I am heading out to remove the pine needless, but what next? What if the dirt is the problem? Do herbicides wash out after a time?

    Thanks for your advice!

  • gorbelly

    Do a bioassay with peas to see whether it's your dirt and/or mulch. Get samples from different depths to do a bioassay to see whether contamination persists. In the meantime, remove the mulch and very top layer of soil just in case.

    The most common hormone-mimicking herbicides are glyphosate (roundup), 2,4-d, dicamba, and picloram. The first three are very common ingredients in consumer herbicides, usually used to keep lawns weed-free, as well as in agriculture. The last is usually used on woodland/rangeland by parks to get rid of woody weeds and weed trees. It also gets used on grazing areas and is common in manure, as are the others.

    We can mostly rule out glyphosate, because the damage isn't consistent with it. 2,4-d has a very short half life in soils that have good aeration and high microbial activity. Dicamba can persist for up to a year, but usually it doesn't. It's often on farms used for fall weed killing before planting legumes in spring, and legumes are very sensitive to it, so it usually dissipates between fall and spring.

    Picloram, unfortunately, can be very persistent. It can range from a month in ideal conditions for breaking it down to years, depending on conditions. Luckily, the longer timelines are mostly in desert soils in very arid areas. Moisture, warm weather, microorganisms, and soil that has plenty of plant roots help speed up clearance.

    If your pea assays determine that it wasn't the soil or mulch but was drift, then you're fine and just need to have a conversation with your neighbors about weed treatments late in the season, whether it was them or a landscaping service they hired.

    If your assays determine that damaging levels of herbicide persist into your soil, you should add a lot of organic matter (test it first unless you 100% know it's not contaminated!) and plant a grass like sudan grass in that area that produces a lot of root mass. In fall, you probably want to sow something like winter rye to replace the sudan grass. Not only will the root mass of these grasses help with clearing herbicide residue, but it'll do wonders for your soil texture. Do another test in early spring (it's good to have extra tomato starts on hand to do this test--use any old seeds on sale, old saved seeds, or seeds from a dollar store or something) or do something like plant peas as an early spring crop in that location as your canary in the coal mine.

  • Marty (West GA, Zone 7b)

    Thanks! I have stunned growth on beans and tomatoes all over the garden. I have hay and straw over the "sad" plants, too, so I cannot rule out the hay, either. I hope it's not the dirt... I spent quite a bit of money on it, will have to follow up with the garden center. If it's the neighbors, the only way any contamination would get into my yard would be through the pine straw, as it was stored close to the fence. But they have a pretty wild & natural area close to the fence.

    I'll soak some peas and do the tests. Schools out, so kids will have a science project at least.

  • gorbelly

    Herbicide can drift a long distance on a day with a breeze. Especially a warm day with a breeze. It could even be from a neighbor across the street or a house or two away.

  • windberry zone5a BCCanada

    Hay, straw, pine needles mulches can only do good to your garden unless the material is contaminated. Where did you get the stuff from?

    Getting the "garden dirt" instead of building healthy soil is a short term solution and usually leads to problems in the long run.

  • gorbelly

    You need to start somewhere with soil building. If there isn't enough soil, there's nothing to build. Buying garden soil or top soil to fill in where you don't have enough soil is a fine solution, and there's absolutely no reason why it "leads to problems in the long run". Of course, one should always be working on soil building and maintenance as well. It's not a zero sum game or an either-or situation.

    And yes, straw and pine needle mulch are great to use in the garden.

    But whether it's soil, mulch, manure, whatever--if it comes from an outside source, always test it for herbicide residue before you put it in your garden unless it comes from a company that guarantees that it tests their products for herbicide residue. Auxin-mimicking herbicides are so commonly used that you can't really assume that anything is uncontaminated at this point.

    The #1 thing that discourages new gardeners is getting advice that is unreasonably purist. Do what you need to do, and try to stick to or migrate to best practices as you learn, and understand that there are many different philosophies and approaches. 100% "organic" or all "from scratch" isn't necessarily best--for your garden or for the environment. As you continue your gardening journey, keep researching and educating and finding the best ways that work for you and satisfy your own philosophy.

  • gorbelly

    Also, DO NOT use hay as mulch. It is NOT the same as straw. Straw is excellent mulch. HAY, on the other hand, will still have seeds in it and cause a weeding nightmare.

  • Marty (West GA, Zone 7b)

    I've had pretty decent soil in a few small garden boxes for a few years now, as I compost every kitchen scrap I can and have a good spot for all the fall leaves to decay over winter. The peas this spring, carrots, radishes, beats, fava beans. They looked awesome. Last years tomatoes did great, but had too little space and too little sun.

    So this year we decided to go big and built 2 new garden boxes, thought they looked off-balance, and added the 3rd one. 3x6x2,5 feet each. I was lucky to run into a neighbor cleaning out an old "firewood" pile that had more rot and ants than anything else in it, so half of my boxes are old wood topped with few inches of compost. There was no way I would have enough dirt to fill the new boxes, so I splurged and purchased soil advertised for gardens. Not sure how else to build 40 sq feet of dirt overnight... I did plan on mixing it with more compost as it becomes available, but I have a backyard garden, not a farm.

    I am about to test what the issue is and hopefully still be able to get tomatoes to grow this season. I may take samples to the local master gardener's office. I did not know about herbicide contamination before, so I am researching what to do.

    Also - I miss-wrote - it's wheat straw, not hay. I'll keep the leaves for mulching this year and get some chipped branches from a friend doing tree work.

    Thanks for your help - I really hope it's the straw...

  • gorbelly

    Your best hope is that it's drift from a neighboring property. That won't affect your soil much if at all. If your soil isn't contaminated or it's just the top layer, which can be removed, you could amend well with compost or other organic matter, put in a fast-growing summer cover crop, and then pull it/disk it in and have fall tomatoes.

  • Marty (West GA, Zone 7b)

    Well, turns out the nuclear holocaust in my beans and tomatoes was caused by at least 3 different bugs... I love our local master gardeners extension office. The guy that helped me was great and very excited about white flies and other grubs.

    I did the bioassay just to be sure there's nothing extra in the dirt and some of the peas came up quickly - with no differences between pure dirt, dirt mixed with wheat, or pine straw, they did get super moldy immediately tho... Gotta love gardening...

  • ditnc

    Marty, what bugs did they identify other than white flies?

  • spartanapples

    My guess was the issue was sucking insects? Tarnished plant bugs, thrips? I too have had the same issue on occasion on beans but not on tomatoes. Please do enlighten us on what the extension agent suggested.

  • Marty (West GA, Zone 7b)

    I had while flies and aphids, thrips, something chewing inside the stem (lil green larva), and on top of that - slugs...

    The agent suggested I let the bugs finish their life cycle and replant. I since removed some of the plants and replaced them with big tomato plants I got from a charity plant sale.

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