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Tomato Plant Health

Tomato Plant Health

Q. For the last few years my tomato leaves have been turning brown and falling off early. Is there anything I can do to prevent this from happening again?

A. Tomatoes are often affected by fungal diseases such as early and late blight and Septoria leaf spot. Early monitoring and detection are important and can be key factors in managing these diseases. Fungal problems usually begin at the bottom of the plant and gradually work their way up. These fungal diseases can affect the leaves, fruits, and stems and can reduce fruit yields. Infected leaves begin with small dark spots that grow in size, some with concentric rings. Leaves can turn yellow or brown and fall off early. Stems turn brown with a sunken appearance, sometimes right above the soil line. Remove any affected leaves or fruit that show any signs of spots. Affected stems can be removed depending on their location on the plant. Sometimes entire plants must be discarded. Mulching newly planted tomatoes with clean straw or a permeable landscape fabric can reduce the possibility of infection from soil splash. In the fall, remove all infected plant debris to reduce the inoculum for next year. Planting locations of tomatoes and other plants in the same family should be rotated to reduce infections in subsequent years. Fungicides can also be applied to plants early in the season. Contact Plant Information Service at (847) 835-0972 or plantinfo@chicagobotanic.org for approved fungicides and more information.

To learn more about protecting your tomato plants from diseases & pests check out Tomato Talk, a full season of tomato-growing information.