Pepper mottle affects more than peppers. This viral disease infects eggplants, groundcherries, potatoes, tomatillos, and tomatoes. Especially tomatoes.
First identified in an Arizona Tabasco pepper in 1969, pepper mottle is a Potyvirus similar to potato virus (PVY). Pepper mottle now occurs in several states and countries. Also known as chili mottle virus and pepper mottle potyvirus, this is not the same disease as pepper mild mottle.
Pepper mottle symptoms
Pepper model symptoms vary by the species infected and the age of the plant at the time of infection. Initially, peppers will show vein clearing, which shifts to dark vein banding, mottling, crinkled leaves, and deformed fruit.
Tomatoes have similar leaf and stem symptoms. The fruit ripens unevenly with green, orange, and yellow areas that never fully ripen. Infected plants are stunted and produce significantly less fruit. Diagnosis can be difficult because pepper mottle mimics cucumber mosaic and often occurs as other infections appear.
Pepper mottle management
Aphids carry the pepper mottle virus. Those aphids are likely to hide out in weeds from the nightshade family. The virus can also be spread mechanically by working with an infected plant and then moving to a healthy plant.
To reduce the chance of pepper mottle in your garden, remove Datura and other nightshade weeds and any rouge tomatoes. [I know it’s hard to get rid of volunteer tomato plants. But they often harbor diseases, so add them to the compost pile and focus on the ones you planted on purpose.]
Garden tools can carry the virus, so sanitize them between plants whenever the disease is suspected. Bathroom cleaners work well. And control aphid populations as well as you can with horticultural oils and insecticidal soaps.
Invest in certified pest- and disease-free plants when shopping for seeds and seedlings. Doing so can save you time and effort later in the growing season and future years. Some pests and diseases can stick around for a very long time. Look for resistant varieties with PepMoV or PeMV on the plant labels.
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!
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