Tomato, Tomahto. Tomato, Tobacco?

by Sarah Miller, Sustainable Plant Systems major

I picked this article to read because I have seen this disease first hand while working at OARDC in Wooster, Ohio while I was helping with various research projects for my internship.  While reading this article I learned that the Tobacco Mosaic Virus is caused by a virus that belongs in the Tobamovirus genus. This virus can then affect many plants, most commonly tomato and tobacco plants. The symptoms that appear on infected tomatoes include mosaic or mottling pattern on leaves, necrosis and yellowing of plant tissues, stunting of plant height, and leaf curling. After the symptoms become present in tomato plants it soon affects the fruit by delaying ripening, shape, and color which results in poor yields.

Tobacco Mosaic can be spread in many ways. It can be spread indirectly by a healthy plant touching a sick plant, workers clothing or hands can carry the virus after smoking or using tobacco products, wounds in plant tissue, or contaminated seed. The virus can also remain infectious for years if the right disease conditions have not been met but, it can begin to thrive again once conditions are conducive for the virus.

To avoid contamination or spread of this virus you should remove all unwanted plant debris and possibly infected soil from where you are trying to grow your crops. Wash all tools and surfaces with soap or a 10% bleach solution. You can also plant cultivars that were bred to be genetically resistant to Tobacco Mosaic and plant infection and disease free seed. Another helpful tip that was discovered is dipping your hands and tools into milk, which has been seen to inactivate the Tobacco Mosaic Virus.

This virus is important to avoid because it would cost many losses in the growth and cultivation of tomato plants. This would cause a lot of economic loss, as well as time that was possibly spend on research toward advancing these plants if they were infected with tobacco mosaic disease.

More information
American Phytopathological Society, apsnet > Tobacco mosaic virus

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Sarah Miller is currently a senior studying agronomy at The Ohio State University. In spring 2017 she will graduate with her bachelor’s degree in agronomy.  She plans to start working towards her certified crop advisor certification while working a full time job.


This blog post was an assignment for Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.

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