The Q&A Archives: Sudden Tomato Wilt

Question: Healthy tomato plants wilt overnight - assume it is bacterial blight (?)(No yellowing, whole plant wilts at once) Have tried various disease resistant (VFN) varieties, with not much luck. Never had a problem growing tomatoes until we moved to NYS 3 yrs ago. Question: Is there anything that can be done to treat the soil (I grow things organically, rotate crops, etc. but am getting desperate!) and what varieties do you recommend for this and a short growing season.

Answer: Based on the lack of symprtoms other than sudden and severe wilting, it sounds like your plants may be suffering from bacterial blight. This is a soil borne problem and it can appear even in a brand new garden; it can also be brought in on transplants. Often it is most severe in poorly drained or lower-lying wet spots, so one thing you might try is ensuring perfect drainage in your garden. A four year minimum rotation for tomatoes (as well as relatives such as peppers, potatoes and eggplants) is also suggested for minimizing this disease. Removing and destroying infected plants as they appear (along with soil from their root zones!) is an additional method of controlling reinfection. Soil solarization is also a possible method of control in home gardens.

In general, good attention to garden clean-up both in fall and during the season, as well as keeping the plants growing vigorously with good soil preparation and routine care are the two best defenses against problems. Although no variety is specifically resistant to bacterial blight, Big Beef and Celebrity are two with excellent overall disease resistance and do well in shorter season areas. You might also wish to contact your County Extension for suggestions as to varieties which do particularly well in your local area as well as a positive identification of the disease should it occur again this year. In Otsego County the telephone number is 547-2536.

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