Year-round Tomato Disease Management
When it comes to tomato disease management, a 12-month strategy can help fresh-market tomato growers optimize production and increase returns on input costs.
While unpredictable and unusual weather conditions may encourage different insect pests and fungal diseases, following good grower practices before, during and after tomato production can keep damage – and costs – under control.
Post Harvest: Practice Good Sanitation
Whitefly, known to transmit tomato yellow leaf curl virus (TYLCV), can quickly spread devastating disease. “Sound production practices can go a long way toward protecting a field from this and other debilitating insect pests,” says Phil Stansly, Ph.D., an entomologist with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
He explains that properly wrapping up a season by removing the plant host will encourage insects to go elsewhere and is one of the most effective ways to reduce or eliminate insect impact on future tomato crops.
In Season: Protect Crops From Insect Vectors
Stansly, recommends a neonicotinoid drench for tomato transplants once during the seven to 10 days prior to shipping and again in the field within the first three to five weeks.
IGR’s (insect growth regulators) or other selective insecticides directed at immature stages are often the best choice midseason.
Broad-spectrum insecticide combinations may be useful at the end of the season to limit pest movement into surrounding crops.
In Season: Identify and Treat Diseases
Once a field has been set, scouting is the first step to limiting disease epidemics. “Once a problem is spotted, start by getting an accurate diagnosis from a credible laboratory,” says Kelly Ivors, Ph.D., an extension plant pathologist at North Carolina State University’s Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center located at Mills River, N.C. “If you don’t know what you have, then you won’t know how to effectively treat it.”
After you research your disease, identify your tomato disease management options, which will likely include using a fungicide. Introduced in early 2012, DuPont™ Fontelis® fungicide offers a new option. “Fontelis® contains both preventive and curative properties to help prepare susceptible fields and combat the unexpected,” says Bond McInnes, Ph.D., fungicide technical manager, DuPont Crop Protection. “It is a broad-spectrum fungicide that works well against target spot, early blight, gray mold and a variety of other fungal diseases.”
Disease Management Checklist
Ivors recommends the following best practices to help manage a healthy crop.
- Rotate crops to different fields each season; a three-year rotation is ideal and recommended when possible.
- Know the history of disease in each field and grow disease-resistant varieties if available.
- Plant clean, disease-free transplants.
- Clean equipment between fields and seasons; sanitation is key to keeping soil-borne diseases at bay.
In-season disease control
- Monitor fields and maintain notes on crop condition and disease pressure by calendar day to determine future planting and management options.
- Limit worker movement between diseased fields and work contaminated fields last to prevent disease spread.
- Practice good resistance management. Use only the pest control products needed and rotate modes of action for each application when possible.
The rewards of following a year-round disease and insect control program are high-quality yields and maximum return on investment — good news to growers in the competitive fresh-tomato market.
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