The Q&A Archives: Tomato Starts With Ethylene Poisoning?

Question: An organic farmer acquaintance is having a problem with some of his tomato starts. The leaves on the growing tip are curling up on the margins. There is no associated yellowing or wilting, and aphids aren't overly abundant, but he is concerned about the long-term plant health. The afflicted plants are 4-6 weeks old and are not of only one cultivar. The local county extension agent mentioned "ethylene poisoning" due to incomplete combustion of propane or kerosene from the greenhouse heaters. As this is the first year for the leaf curling and not the first for the heaters, I don't buy that. Would you please send me the symptoms of "ethylene poisoning" and any hypotheses you might have? Thanks for your time and service.

Answer: According to The Greenhouse and Nursery Handbook, by Francis X. Jozwik (Andmar Press, Wyoming, 1992) "Ethylene may be detected in the greenhouse by introducing young, vigorous tomato plants to suspected areas. If ethylene is present, it will cause leaves to grow downward as if they were wilted even though the tissue is still turgid."

Does this describe the symptoms on the new growth? Or, is there any possibility of something like tobacco mosaic virus? Viruses often cause distortion of foliage. Following are a few web addresses that might have additional information; I didn't have time to read them thoroughly. management

I hope this helps you figure out the problem.

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