While it may sound like a short, reckless redhead, tomato bushy stunt is a viral disease of tomatoes. The strange thing is, we don’t yet know 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. When it comes to tomato bushy virus, we don’t know how it spreads, though many experts believe it may be spread through irrigation water. Contaminated seed, sewage, and tools may also be guilty.
The virus is thought to enter plants through damaged roots. And 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 it can cause problems in your home garden if it gets established. Apples, artichokes, cherries, grapes, hops, sweet peppers, chili peppers, eggplant, and tulips can also become infected, and the virus can cause severe leaf dieback of many lettuce varieties.
Tomato bushy stunt symptoms
Plants infected with the tomato bushy stunt virus have smaller than normal leaves which are cupped and curled downward. New leaves are crinkled and twisted, with dead tips. Infected plants produce more lateral shoots, creating the bushier, though often stunted appearance. 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 is produced, 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 once plants are established. Instead, feed plants by top dressing and banding, and disinfect tools regularly.
Once the virus is present in the soil, it is suggested that long crop rotations, of 4 or more years, are suggested. Infected plants should be removed and tossed in the trash.
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!