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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Tomato Transplants Wilted and Died. Disease?

Q. Last weekend I started putting some tomatoes into raised garden beds. I had started these from seed about 8 weeks ago, transplanted them once into 20 oz plastic cups after four weeks, and hardened them off for a week before putting them in the ground. The were 4-6 inches tall. They went into good topsoil and I fertilized them lightly with Miracle Gro for tomatoes. Within about five days they started wilting from the bottom up and two are completely dead. I've noticed white lesions on several of the stems. Photos attached. Could this be blight? Is there a chance I overfertilized? I haven't seen any insects on the plants.

 A. I looked at the pics when you sent them and then ruminated about them and finally had a chance to get back to you. My reaction was that something had mechanically damaged the stems of the tomatoes. Mechanical damage can come from insect feeding, abrasion by wind blow sand, chemical sprays that were caustic to the surface tissue. This does not look like any common tomato disease that I am aware of. At this stage in their life tomatoes are so vigorous that diseases would have trouble getting established unless it was from the soil such as using “dirty” unsterilized soil for a seedling mix.

But even if that were the case it does not look like one of the common or even less common soil borne disease of tomatoes (Phytophtora, Fusarium, Verticillium, Pythium). The picture looks like the problem “attacked” the plant at the stem a short distance above the soil. One of the pictures shows these “spots” starting a half inch or so above the soil level.

You mentioned Miracle Gro. Miracle Gro is a good product but if it were mixed too concentrated and sprayed directly on the plants rather than diluted in water and used as a soil drench it is possible this could be salt damage from the Miracle Gro sprayed directly on the plant.

My second guess would be mechanical damage from strong wind with sand and damage from “sandblasting” the stem. If it were from the compost or a soil borne disease of some sort it would start at the soil and work up. Viragrow has had no reports with damage to plants and I have seen none in their demonstration planting beds used at Viragrow. That is my best guess with the pictures and your information.

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