Tomato spotted wilt is a viral disease spread by thrips.
Besides tomatoes, this virus can be found on chili peppers, eggplant, lettuces, radicchio, and fava beans, along with many ornamentals and weeds. Cheeseweed, sowthistle, bindweed, and prickly lettuce are the most common weed hosts.
Tomato spotted wilt symptoms
When the tomato spotted wilt virus infects a plant, it blocks the flow of water and nutrients in the xylem, causing it to wilt. This viral disease also causes spotting, stunted growth, a crumpled leaf appearance, leaf cupping, dead spots (necrosis) on leaves and stems, and overall discoloration.
Symptoms can vary, depending on the plant’s overall health, the cultivar, environmental factors, and life stage at the time of infection:
This disease is easily mistaken for curly top and alfalfa mosaic virus. You can take samples to your County Extension Office, though the control measures are rather similar for all three diseases.
How tomato spotted wilt spreads
Tomato spotted wilt is spread by thrips. Most commonly, in California, it is citrus thrips and western flower thrips. These sap-sucking pests carry the virus with them. As they feed, they insert the virus.
Tomato spotted wilt control
It is far easier to prevent tomato spotted wilt than break this particular disease triangle. These tips can help reduce the chance of it occurring in your foodscape:
May you never find tomato spotted wilt in your garden!
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!