Tomato plant conundrum

Asked June 12, 2018, 9:40 PM EDT

Can you give me some idea of why 2 of my 4 tomatoes plants look this way? (Photos attached). They’re all planted together in the same area.

Ottawa County Michigan

6 Responses

You (or somebody) sprayed a herbicide close to them. Tomatoes are extremely sensitive to many herbicides, especially 2-4D which is a common broadleaf weed killer for lawns and I see they are right next to you grass. The may grow out of it depending on how much of a dose they received.

Actually, the 2 near my grass are fine. The problem ones are next to the window behind the two good ones.

2,4-D can travel quite a ways and in unusual patterns since it is wherever the winds blows. It is actually illegal to spray it anywhere in California because grapes are also extremely sensitive. The question is, "Did somebody spray a herbicide on your lawn or your neighbors lawn?" If the answer is "Yes", then that is what is causing your plants to curl. If anyone has a lawn service, when the lawn service sprays they apply a fertilizer 2,4-D combination. So do you, or someone in your neighborhood, have a lawn service? I suppose the plants could have been exposed prior to planting, but I suspect you would have seen the damage and not planted them. If there has been no 2,4-D sprayed, then we need to look for other reasons. Virus possibly.


That makes good sense. I’m not aware of any of my close neighbors having a lawn service. The closest I’ve seen is 4-5 houses away. What type of virus would only infect 2 of the 4 plants?

Tomatoes can get several viruses. The most common are cucumber mosaic virus (CMV), tobacco mosaic virus (TMV), and tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV). These are vectored from infected plants to other plants by insects, most notably thrips, aphids, and leafhoppers. The plants can acquire the virus in the greenhouse but not show symptoms until after planting, and some can come on the seed. Are all four plants the same variety, or are the two unaffected different from the affected ones? If different, they probably were grown in different areas of the greenhouse and might not have been exposed. You can have the plants tested for a virus but there is nothing you can do to correct it. Once plants have a virus they will always have it. The best alternative to virus infected plants is to remove them so it doesn't spread to the others.

I still think it is herbicide damage. See this response with pictures:

Most virus will also exhibit leaf color variations and I don't see that in your pictures.

Are there any other plants in your landscape that have deformed or cupped, curled leaves?


The two unaffected are Roma’s and the two affected are big beef and beefsteak. No other plants are showing any signs. Thanks so much for your help!