While it may sound like a short, reckless redhead, tomato bushy stunt is a viral disease of tomatoes. But no one knows where it comes from or how it gets to our tomato plants.
Most diseases are spread by vectors, often sap-sucking or leaf-chewing insects. It is still a mystery how these viruses move around. Some experts believe they may travel in irrigation water. Contaminated seed, sewage, and tools may also be guilty. And we think the virus enters plants through damaged roots, but that has yet to be proven. We do know that tomatoes are not the only plants at risk.
Tomato bushy stunt host plants
First identified in tomatoes in 1935, this is not an economically significant disease but can cause problems in your home garden if it gets established. Apples, artichokes, cherries, grapes, hops, sweet peppers, chili peppers, and eggplant can also come down with tomato bushy stunt. The virus can cause severe leaf dieback in many lettuce varieties.
Tomato bushy stunt symptoms
Plants infected with the tomato bushy stunt virus have smaller, cupped leaves that curl downward. New leaves are crinkled and twisted, with dead tips. Infected plants produce more lateral shoots, creating a bushier, stunted plant. Lower leaves may have a purplish tinge and tend to be chlorotic. Tomato bushy stunt causes a significant reduction in fruit production. The fruit that does reach maturity, well, let's just say it doesn't look very appetizing.
Preventing tomato bushy stunt
Since damaged roots create a point of entry for this and other diseases, avoid digging around established plants. Instead, feed plants by top dressing and banding, and disinfect tools regularly.
Once the virus is present in the soil, crop rotations of four or more years may break this disease triangle. Remove infected plants and toss them in the trash.
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