Healthy plants are better able to cope with pests and diseases and produce good crops, so it is important to identify and control any problems. The first step is to use good cultivation techniques.
Most modern F1 hybrid tomato plants are relatively disease resistant, as commercial plant breeders work to improve resistance to a number of fungal and other pathogens. Verticillium and fusarium wilts, for example, are soil-borne diseases that cause yellowing of the leaves, wilting, and premature death of plants. Once they build up in the soil, the only practical control is the use of resistant varieties, such as 'Roma' (p65), which are often designated by the letters "VF" in seed catalogs. "VFN" indicates a variety, such as 'Lemon Boy' (p35), that is also resistant to root-knot nematodes, wormlike pests that live in the soil. There are few blight-tolerant plants, although 'Ferline' (p23) and 'Legend' (p55) are particularly disease resistant.
Compacted, poorly drained soil stresses the plants, so prepare the soil well (pp88-89). Practice crop rotation (pp102-103) to avoid growing tomatoes after crops in the same family, which are prone to the same diseases. Eradicate weeds, particularly those in the nightshade family, which may harbor disease organisms. Maintain good plant hygiene by removing and destroying all infected plant material—do not put infected material on a compost heap because some pests and diseases may survive and infect subsequent crops. Space plants to encourage air circulation and reduce spread of pests or diseases. Staking and removing sideshoots (pp110-111) promote air flow around plants. Try to keep the foliage dry to minimize fungal infections. Position plants where they benefit from the morning sun to dry out any dew from the leaves. Avoid watering the plants from overhead, particularly if it is late in the day.
Late blight is the most common and most deadly problem that may affect your crop. It can have a devastating affect particularly in cool, wet climates. Do not leave unharvested potatoes in the soil, as they can be a source of infection to subsequent crops. If buying transplants, check carefully to ensure you buy healthy stock. Growing tomato plants under cover will provide some protection from wind-blown spores. Use the charts on the following pages if your plant is showing signs of ill health.
Common problems with tomato plants include (clockwise from top left): early blight, late blight, blossom end rot, and sapfeeding whitefly. >
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