Disease? Any idea what this is?

Chicago, IL(Zone 6a)

I live in Chicago area. Last year we had a cool year. I had an eruption of some sort of virus that wiped out almost all of my 40 plants. It was a disaster. The plants were looking to be very productive and then they all dies. It stated out with spots on the lower leaves and progressed higher into the plant and to the stems. The stems turned a yellowish color and became limp. Even some of the ripening tomatoes saw some effect. The progress was rapid. Eventually almost the entire plant shriveled up and I removed them. I have three pictures that show the disease. One shows the leaf spots. Another shows more leafs as well as stems in the background which have spots and can be seen to be turning a pale green to yellow color.

Do any of you recognize what this might be? I'm trying to diagnose it so I can hopefully mitigate the consequences. I only have two locations, about 20 ft. by 20 ft, in a suburban location where I can plant. Crop rotation is not much of an option. I either plant or don't plant and I prefer to plant. I have not turned the soil over at the end of the year for the past two years and I understand now that perhaps that is something that should be done to keep viruses from over wintering.

If any of you could recognize what my plants were afflicted with and what actions I need to take to avoid a recurrence, I would most appreciate it if you could share what you can with me.

Thumbnail by BudZander
Chicago, IL(Zone 6a)

Here is a close up picture of the leaf

Thumbnail by BudZander
Chicago, IL(Zone 6a)

Here is another view of one of the plants. Sorry I could not rotate the picture as I don't know how.

Thumbnail by BudZander
Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

Bud, I rotated your pic for you. (I was getting dizzy looking at it.)

I can't really tell what it is, perhaps Fusarium? There are new races of it, from what I've read. Another guess, Tomato Spotted Wilt? I can't remember the symptoms of it right now. Maybe I can find a previous thread on that somewhere.

Carolyn will be along and quite possibly know right off the bat what you have there.

Thumbnail by Horseshoe
Chicago, IL(Zone 6a)

Horseshoe, thanks for the input and rotating the picture. I was debating about asking people to lie sideways to see my pictire but then it is descriptive of what my plants experienced last year so I posted it anyways.

Augusta, GA(Zone 8a)


Try http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/tomatoproblemsolver/index.html.

They have a pretty fair description of most tomato diseases complete with pictures.

Chicago, IL(Zone 6a)


That is a great link. I compared photos and two look close but I cannot say it is an exact match. I suppose it is pretty safe to say it is either a fungus or bacteria. I'd like to know which one though. I bought a book titled "A Colour Atlas of Tomato Diseases - Observation, Identification and Control" Perhaps if this issue shows up again this year I'll be able to pay enough attention to it to find the culprit.

Salem, NY(Zone 4b)

I don't like the pictures at that site. LOL This new TAMU picture site isn't as good as the old one, say I. Sigh.


In the Chicago area you don't have systemic soil borne diseases such as Fusarium and Verticillium and your leaf pictures are not consistent with a systemic disease.

And it's not a virus. Again, in the Chicago area the insect vectors needed for transmission of most viral diseases are not present. CMV can be transmitted without vectors but CMV doesn't look like that.

To me it looks like a very very severe infection with either Bacterial Speck or Spot. Do you remember how it started out? I ask becasue the lesions are so close together I can't tell if there are yellow halos around the lesions or not.

Did you spray your plants with an antifungal last year? Yes, I know I'm asking abut an antifungal when I'm suggesting a possible Bacterial disease.

What did you match it up to?

The problem with a picture diagnosis is that it is static while diseases are progressive.


Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

Carolyn, the pic of the "spots" on the leaves stymied me...they are not circular (like Early Blight), and they aren't haloed like Septoria. (Wish I was more well-versed in this lingo!)

The death look of the plants almost looks like some type of herbicide poisoning but I don't think that would happen from the lower leaves then working upwards. So...definitely something systemic maybe?

The tomatoes don't seem to show the signs of Bacterial Speck (man, that plant sure made a good crop though!). Then again, he did say he had a cool season, which would encourage Speck and Spot.

What a dilemma. Anyone else in your area have this problem, Bud? And did you get your seeds from the same source? And were they all the same variety? (Just wondering about seed borne diseases.)

Chicago, IL(Zone 6a)

I did spray the plants with Daconil based on a recommendation of a nursery. I took a sample of the leaves and stems to two nurseries and one could offer nothing the other didn't offer much either but told me to use Daconil. They told me that they did recognize a higher occurrence of similar/same problem that I was experiencing this year and attributed it to the coolness and dampness of the year up to that point.

The Daconil did not save the plants but perhaps might have slowed the progression but in any case, it did not save any of them. Once I say the first sypmtoms, they progessed to where none of the plants produced additional fruit and what existed rippened with varying degress of success. I did however, have four juliet plants which were very prolific and were minimally impacted.

The onset was pretty quick. I was told by a relative on a Monday that the plants were looking sickly and by the following weekend many of the plants had lower leaves affected and soon thereafter the culprit had progressed further up the plant and to the stems.

I don't recall how it started out, if there were any yellowness around the lesions. I don specifically remember the stems turning a yellowish tint and becoming very limp.

From the aggie-horticulture website, the closet match I can see is the bacterial speck but again, I cannot recall the yellow. The book I mentioned earlier leads me to a diagnosis of "psuedomonas Syringae pv. Tomato (Okabe) Alstaat" common name speckles or specks. However, I'm not experienced at diagnosis, it was the closest description in the book.

What I have not seen in any bacteria description is that the entire plant can be almost entirely consumed. Almost all of the leaves on some of the plants turned brown and shriveled up. Photo 1 and 3 above provides a good visual description. Fists the leaves showed signs of something wrong. They continued to increase in area showing necrotic patches while the stems then showed necrotic patches while exhibiting a yellowing and limpness. Eventually the entire plant would turn brown and shrivel up while the fruit stayed in place. Some of the fruit ripened but it was very hard fruit with no juice. Some of the fruits also exhibited some affect from the culprit disease. These fruits showed a variation in color and texture being somewhat lumpy. It looked anyways like something one would obviously not want to eat.

I haven't done anything yet in preparation for planting this year. I really would like to plant again and I have started seeds. I didn't turn the soil over in the fall. I usually till, fertilize and then cover the garden with a black fabric used for weed control. Last year I fertilized with a lot of mushroom compost. The black fabric is very visible in the photos above. I do this purely for weed control as travel and time does not permit me to attend to weeds as would be necessary without it.

What I planted last year was seeds started from two different sources supplemented by store bought plants.

I hope to get a crop this year. I grow way more than I need and my Dad gives the excess away to passers by out front via a "Tomatoes For Free" sign. He'll set 100+ out at a time on an old railrod wagon. He lives on the road to the local grade school so teachers, bus drivers, parents, neighbors, etc. stop and pick some up and all we like to see in return is a smile and a wave.

Chicago, IL(Zone 6a)

I asked my Brother what he remembers about the culprit that bit my tomatoes last year and he said it manifested itself as small spots or specks on the leaves at the base of the plant. The specks grew larger and spread upward in the plant then eventually consumed the plant. I asked about yellow around the spots and he said that would characterize what he saw. Unfortunatley, we are dealing with what the eye saw early last august. I hope we recollect acurately.

Franklin, NC(Zone 6b)

I'll put in a vote for bacterial speck. There's something about the stem lesions that has me leaning in that direction. If I get close enough to the screen and squint, I think I can see a lesion on the shoulders of a couple of fruit... maybe.

Salem, NY(Zone 4b)

(To me it looks like a very very severe infection with either Bacterial Speck or Spot. Do you)

Is what I wrote above and I'm sticking to my story. LOL

It's quite possible that the bacteria are still in the soil, since they can remain there for several years.

The only half way effective treatment for either Bacterial Speck or Bacterial Spot is a good preventive spray program with something like Kocide, which is a copper containing product. There are others as well, but Kocide is considered one of the better ones by my friends who grow organically and use it for almost everything since they can't use something like Daconil which is far more effective for fungal foliage diseases.

I'm not going to try to distinguish between Speck and Spot, and in the end it really makes no difference in terms of prognosis, or how you might want to treat for either preventatively.


Clanton, AL(Zone 8a)

Is this problem you mention called spot or speck a fungus type infection? I have a suggestion here if it is a fungus problem that may just sound goofy to you but i have used this on my pets and horses for fungus infections and thought maybe it might be helpful with a fungus infection on plants too. I use listerine on my critters for fungus infections. If you should need something to help the listerine hold to the plant, use an oil of some type. It is a wild thought i know but maybe it will help if you try this on one place that may not be noticeable or inhibit other plants. Robbie

Chicago, IL(Zone 6a)

If the affliction of the plants was Bacterial Speck or Spot, is there anyway to erradicate or remove the bacteria or minimize the affects if it still remains a part of my garden?

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

Reading in one of my books it says Speck can be carried over on infected seeds, plant residue, and also in the soil. It also says it only affects tomatoes. Perhaps you'd have to not grow tomatoes in that area for a season or two?

If you save seeds, fermenting them may kill off the bacterium. Some folks will give them the "hot water treatment".

It doesn't say much about Spot. Sorry.

Salem, NY(Zone 4b)

(If the affliction of the plants was Bacterial Speck or Spot, is there anyway to erradicate or remove the bacteria or minimize the affects if it still remains a part of my garden?)

No, you can't remove or eradicate those bacteria that now contaminate the soil. What you can do is to mulch tomato plants to help deter splashback reinfection, but that won't stop any new airborne infections.

I do think that the growing conditions last summer helped cause this problem. Most folks who have foliage infections with Speck or Spot on their tomatoes don't have it as badly. Thus I think the chances of it happening again, from a new airborne infection, are not high.

If it were me I think I'd spray some Kocide or other copper containing product, if I were worried. But then there's always the fungal pathogens which usually are far mre serious and Kocide/copper is not the best for them, Daconil is, but the former do have some activity.

Shoe, both Speck and Spot can be seedborne but doing hot water treatments for pathogen removal, as has to be done for Speck and Spot, as opposed to fermentation, is not easy to do for the homegrower and it also results in considerable loss of seed viability.


Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

Yep, thanks Carolyn. There's a fine line (time line?) when doing that hot water stuff, too long in the water or the water too hot and you've really messed up, eh?

I noticed several years ago that Johnny's started offering hot water treated seeds (if you chose them) but I'm quite sure that as on the ball as they are they must have it down pat.

I'll stick w/fermenting (and hoping I don't have to deal with Speck and Spot).

I wonder if by not growing in the Speck/Spot infected ground for a couple years will kill/remove the bacteria. Don't they require a particular "food source" to live off of, in this case tomato?

Pembroke Pines, FL(Zone 10a)

Just got back on-line. Had problem with DSL service for our new home.
Carolyn: Didn't you advise against using mushroom compost at one time? Perhaps the compost had some sort of bacteria for it certainly is the perfect host for it. Mushrooms grow in the dark under moist and warm conditions??

Salem, NY(Zone 4b)

Carolyn: Didn't you advise against using mushroom compost at one time?

No, not I.

I know lots of folks who covet mushroom compost and use it all the time when they can find it.

Everything is coated with a thin film of bacteria, even us. As long as we're not talking pathogens that can infect tomatoes there's no problem. And mushrooms are not hosts to tomato pathogens.


Chicago, IL(Zone 6a)

Thansk so much for the fine repsonses. I will be planting this year and we'll see how it goes. If I have a major outbreak again, I figure I'll have to find another place to plant.

Horshoe, that is a good question in regards to whether speck can lay dormant to strike again years later or does it become a non issue with a lack of planting for a couple of years.

I'll do some surfing to see if there is any informaiton on it. I found the below discussion ina book.

Sources: on seeds, in the soil either directly or via vegetable debris. The bacteria appear able to survive on the roots and foliage of several cultivated plants and weeds.

Dissemination: through rain, overhead irrigation and wind, which can carry drops of water (containing the bacteria) across considerable distances.

Penetrattion: through stomates and wounds.

Conditions for developement: relatively low temperatures, ideally around 20C; high humidity (dew, fog, rain, spray irrirgation), in particular the presence of a film of water on the plants. These conditions, if maintained for 24 hours, are sufficient to ensure development of the disease which appears 8-10 days after contamination.

Control Methods:

During Cultivation: There is no real cure. It is best to avoid excessive humidity, in particular the presence of free water on the plants. The achieve this, provide maximum ventilation fro crops under protection, and avoid overhead irrigation. If this is not possible, water in the mornings (never int he evenings) so that the folliage can dry quickly during the day.
Apply copper as Bordeaux misture, wetting the plants well, which will restrict the development of the disease. Recent studies have shown that copper mixed just before applicaiton with dithiocarbamate fungicide (Mancozeb) apperas ot be more effective.
During or after cultivaiton, remove crop debris.

Next Crop: rotate the land, use disinfected seeds. Treat with copper only or with Mancozeb from propagation onwards, wetting the plants well.

I obtained the above description from the "Colour Atlas of Tomato Diseases" which was published in Europe so I'm not sure in "Mancozeb" makes sence in the States.

Salem, NY(Zone 4b)


Mancozeb makes sense here and everywhere, but I'd use a more modern copper containing product for the bacterial foliage pathogens as I suggested above.

And most foliage pathgens will last maybe 3-4 years in the soil and then disappear as long as new ones don't contaminate the soil.

Almost everyone who grows tomatoes has to deal with the foliage pathongens, but as I've said before, the bacterial ones usually aren 't as bad as what happened to you in your garden.

And the fungal ones are easily controlled with a **preventive** spray program with Ortho Garden Disease Control (daconil)


Los Angeles, CA

Being a novice, I whacked off a leaf from one of my plants that looked like your picture. I raced to my favorite nursery for a diagnosis and was given a variety of possible diseases which each nurseryman attributed to my !0 excessive, 2) deficient #0 too-much-from-the-top or 4) too-much-from-the-bottom watering technique. All recommended a copper based spray which definitely slowed the progression of the problem and has allowed the plant to continue to fruit. Good Luck!

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

Thanks for the input, markiknox.

Glad you got some fruit from your plants!

Just noticed you're new here....


Be seein' ya around!


Los Angeles, CA

Thanks, Horseshoe for the welcome. Yes, I'm new to the site and new to the fine art of rearing tomatoes. I have a myriad of questions but will start by reading the questions and advice of others-lots of good information that addresses many of my concerns. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience.

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

Hope to see you posting! It's a fun site, good Folks, good conversations! (And good eatin', too!)

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Was glad to find this old thread, as I have Black Spot on my Black Krims...I figured out I introduced wounds for infestation when I pinched off the lower leaves on my mater...didn't spray with Ortho Disease Control immediately afterward.

Do I need to get rid of all the soil in my EBs? Please say there is something I can treate the soil with. I have 5 EBs going now....

Dahlonega, GA

I know this is an old thread , but if you have trouble again , spray with Neem . It Works .Start when you first put them in the ground , Or go to the strawbale forum and do what so many of us are doing now . digger

Fort Worth, TX(Zone 8a)

You can also use a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water.

Moss Point, MS(Zone 8b)

Rotating crops isn't much of an option for me and I'm getting ready to start seeds for the next round. All my spring planted stuff was looking great until it started raining regularly. Most years it never rains here in April and May just when folks are trying to start gardens. This year it rained for several days at a time about 3 or 4 times in May. The speck started moving on up most of the plants. They were loaded and went on to finish ripening most of the fruit then quit. Some are putting on new healthy looking growth like rising from the dead. Do ya'll think I should give them another chance?

Dahlonega, GA

Of course .Mine were about through , from heat in Aug , one year . After vacationof two weeks , started watering again deep , and the green ones ripened up and was still blooming when it froze in Nov . digger

Cocoa, FL(Zone 9a)

That almost looks like Alternaria Canker to me, but since I don't know how prevalent Canker is in your area and the fact that the fruits didn't seem to be affected so isn't a complete match for your problem. The only other plant disorder that looks similar or even close to what your dealing with is that which Carolyn suggested, Bacterial Speck.

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