Tomato Damage Days after Transplanting #129351 - Ask Extension

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Tomato Damage Days after Transplanting #129351

Asked May 23, 2013, 3:36 PM EDT

I planted 14 heirloom tomatoes that I raised from seed on Tuesday night. They were 8" to 14" tall and had been treated with fungicide and dust containing Pyrethrins while in greenhouse. When I planted them they were liberally covered with dust. The very next night we check them and all were eaten leaving very few leaves and the stems. Corn, peas, potatoes growing next to tomatoes were untouched. No animal tracks, no hornworms, and no bugs or except a couple of small black flies on what was left of plants. Stems there so I guess no cutworms, afraid to plant any more there until we can figure out what wiped them out in less that 24 hours.

Somerset County Maryland

Expert Response

Heirloom tomatoes taste so good that all the energy we put towards growing them is worth all the hassles we face while they mature.    I have talked to a number of growers this spring and many have noticed that the Colorado Potato bug totally defoliated the majority of their early tomatoes but they also saw the CPB during the day.  This time of year it is often the young cutworm (grey, black or brown) that climbs up the stem and eats the leaves at night.    The older cutworms do take the plants out at the stem but the young ones go for the tender foliage.  During the day they crawl back down to the ground and burrow into the ground near the stems of the plants.  Check around the base of the plants to see if there are any insect burrows.    Because you mentioned that the plants were defoliated at night, I think that the culprit may be the young cut worms.   Before planting more, be sure to make a collar around the tomato plant out of aluminum foil.  Place the collar about 2-3 inches from the tomato plants to keep the cutworms at bay. 
 
http://hgic.umd.edu/_media/documents/hg56.pdf
Ginny Rosenkranz Replied May 24, 2013, 9:13 AM EDT

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