Valley Permaculture Alliance

Got this info today from the Master Gardeners and I thought I would pass it along.

Q. - I have a recurring problem with my tomato plants. They do really well until they start fruiting and then they start dying. THe oldest parts begin to turn brown and gradually the whole plant turns brown with just the fruit remaining on the branches. Any advice?

A. - The damage you describe is typically due to the tomato russet mite, Aculops lycopersici, and is a common problem in our warm climate. The damage starts at the ground level and moves up on the stems and leaves. The mites suck cell contents, first from the stems and leaves and later from the fruit. The stems and lower leaves dry out and turn brownish or bronze in color, then die. The mites are too small to be visible to the unaided eye.

Recommended controls, acceptable for organically certified crops, are sulfur dust and sprays. Apply sulfur dust when the winds are calm and wear protective goggles and a mask. Wettable powders are easy to apply with a hose end sprayer. Do not apply in hot weather, i.e., > 90Deg F.

A web search will bring up a lot photos showing the problem and suggested controls.

Hope it helps you! Doreen

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Tags: tomatoes


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Comment by Treasa on May 17, 2010 at 5:25pm

So, Until recently I was having my best tomato plant year ever. but now the leaves are turning yellow with some bronzing. I check my ph it runs just over 7. I water once a day the mositure seems to be ok. The plant is question is a big boy and it seems to be the only one with the issue. got any ideas. Is this what the mite infestation looks like

Comment by Anita Mahaffey on May 15, 2010 at 12:00pm
Tomato russet mites can kill a tomato within days of infestation. The key to control is early diagnosis and immediate treatment. It is obvious that the tomato is not the target host for this little bugger, as the devastation to the entire plant is almost immediate. It is best to remove any "rusty and dried" leaves immediately prior to applying any treatment in order to avoid further spread of the contamination by the mites or the treatment. At the time I diagnosed the dread mites, I couldn't find sulfer, so I treated with safe-t-side. I'm not sure which was more effective, the oil, or the complete scrubdown the plants got with Dr. Bronner's biodegradeable soap and a microfiber cloth. Because of the application of the petroleum oil, I was unable to use sulfer, in accordance with the lengthy, and confusing label on the sulfer package. BTW, if your plants are topically treated with sulfer, under Federal Law, you cannot offer them for sale to the public. The mechanical device worked well enough, so that when the same plants were recently attacked by other mites that were spinning webs on the leaves, I gave them another thorough scrubbing and rinse.

After reading the safety info on the package, I do believe I prefer to save the sulfer for amending the soil, and defer to mechanical means of removal of pests.

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