Tomato Mosaic Virus
There is no cure for tomato mosaic virus. Once a plant is infected, it stays that way, and the virus can easily be transmitted to other plants.
Causes and Symptoms
There are many ways that a tomato plant can be contaminated with mosaic virus. A common method of infection is by the debris of virally infected plants still in the soil. This virus can survive for at least 50 years in dead, dried plant debris.
Gardeners that smoke or use tobacco products may infect plants with the virus left on their hands after handling contaminated tobacco. Insects can transmit the virus, but are not considered a major source of infection. An infection can also be obtained from contaminated gardening tools, pots, or planters.
Light and dark green mottled areas will appear on the leaves of tomato plants infected with this virus, Other symptoms include stunted growth, fruit deformities, and a reduction in the amount of fruit produced.
It usually starts with a light green color between the veins of newer leaves. The development of the “mosaic” or speckled pattern that the virus is named for begins after that stage. When the tomatoes are cut open, the insides may have brown areas. Leaves may curl, yellow, and become fern-like in appearance.
Treatments and Control
The only treatment is prevention. No chemical products are available to cure or protect plants. The best factor in controlling and reducing infection is to practice sanitation. Remove any infected plants, including the roots. Remove Also, discard any plants near those affected.
Wash hands with milk or soap and water as this can reduce the risk of contamination by over 90%. A gardener that has been in contact with tobacco products absolutely must do this. The coat of the mosaic virus reacts with proteins in milk, so milk can be used to inactivate the virus.
Avoid planting in a field where infected tomato plants were grown. Gardening tools, pots, and planters need to be sterilized and washed regularly. A milk solution of 5 gallons of milk to 100 gallons of water or soap and water may be used. Steam or commercial disinfectants may also be used for disinfection. Use disease resistant tomato seeds. Starter plants will have certain codes on the name tag indicated with a “T” for resistance to this virus.
Be aware of cross contamination. Tools and containers must be sterilized. Wash hands thoroughly after removing diseased plants, and especially before handling healthy ones. Never handle plants without washing hands after the use tobacco products. Remember that the soil can harbor this virus for many years to come.