If you are a home gardener with your lawn or backyard filled with lush green plants bearing delicious fruits and vegetables, your garden is just a few tomato plants away from perfection. These sweet, delicious, juicy fruits are the perfect plants to be grown in a home garden.
With their seeds being easily available, tomatoes grow well even in the smallest of lawns or even balconies, give you an abundant harvest, and do not require constant attention. Brimming with health benefits, these fruits are extremely versatile in the kitchen. They add a plethora of flavors to your recipes, while also serving as a delicious treat when eaten raw.
However, gardening is not always as relaxing as the websites on stress relief might have told you. A significant part of a home gardener’s life is spent worrying about the several threats that the plants in their garden are faced with.
No matter how green a thumb you have, your plants will be faced with diseases and pest infestations that can seriously affect the quality of your harvest.
Tomato plants are no exception. On the contrary, very few plants are more susceptible to diseases than tomatoes. If you are into tomato cultivation, this is probably no news to you.
However, solving the problems of these pests and diseases can be extremely easy if you provide your plants with proper care.
One such problem that tomato gardeners often talk about is the problem of white lines on tomato leaves. If you too have been tormented by this problem and are on the lookout for a solution, you have come to the right place.
Read this article to find out why this problem happens and how to solve it. But first, let’s go over some basics about tomato gardening.
Also Read: How to Speed up Tomato Ripening?
Introduction: The Basics of Tomato Cultivation
With the present market scenario being dominated by heavily fertilized and commercially produced fruits and vegetables, organic cultivation is becoming a popular trend.
Tomatoes are extremely popular among home gardeners because of their high nutritional value. They contain iron, potassium, zinc, choline, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, and chromium, along with vitamins K, C, and A.
Tomatoes you would grow at home taste far better than the ones you find in the market, which are bred for their firmness and size.
Though homegrown tomatoes are smaller in size, they are much richer in taste and nutrition content. Growing perfectly firm, juicy, sweet as well as tangy tomatoes is thus the dream of many home gardeners.
A bite into a ripe, squishy, sweet, and juicy tomato just picked from your garden will never let you go back to the blandness of the commercial ones.
What is even better, these delicious fruits are also full of benefits for your heart, skin, and bones. They are also considered to be a trusted ally in cancer prevention.
Tomatoes are warm-season plants that grow well in temperatures between 20℃ to 25℃, with temperatures being dangerous for the plants. They require low to medium rainfall.
Frost and cold weather are very harmful to these plants. Tomatoes are heavy feeders and require well-nourished, fertile soil with abundant sunshine after the setting of the fruits.
White Lines on Tomato Leaves: Know Your Problem
This is one of the most common problems faced by tomato cultivators.
Tomato plants are extremely susceptible to various sorts of infestations and diseases especially because of their long growing season. These plants can stand neither too hot nor too cold weather conditions.
Several diseases can cause white spots or discoloration of your tomato leaves. The key to solving the problem is to keep looking for small signs and symptoms that help you identify the exact problem.
Negligence on your part can make an otherwise easily solvable problem a serious threat to your plants leading to irreparable damage to your harvest.
If you see narrow white or yellowish squiggly lines on the leaves of your plant, your plants have been infected by the notorious tomato plant leaf miners.
Though their names may sound dreadful, these are not that big of a threat if you deal with the problem efficiently. But if you ignore them for too long, they might claim a large section of your labored-after harvest.
Leaf miners leave a narrow, squiggly line all over the surface of your leaf. The lines can be white or yellowish in color and spread all over the leaves, apparently ending at the edges.
These are the lines along which the leaf miners have eaten through the leaves. The damage can also be in the form of small spots in certain cases.
Apart from being unsightly, leaf miners affect the overall health of your plants. They affect a large number of plants, both edible and ornamental, and are extremely difficult to get rid of.
The good news is, damage caused by these pests is mostly superficial unless the leaves of the plant are to be harvested and eaten.
However, if the infestation is extensive, the pores opened by them can become an entry point of fungus and bacteria into the plant, leading to graver problems.
However, before making a decision, be sure to identify your problem accurately. Other factors like water stress, too much exposure to the sun, or nutrition deficiency can also cause white spots, and leaf miners are blameless in that case.
What Causes Leaf Miners In Tomato Plants?
Now that you have enough knowledge about the nature of your problem, we hope you will be able to identify the specific issue with your tomato plants. Since by this time you already know the reason of white lines on your plant leaves, let us get into the details of the problem.
The reason for the lines you see on your tomato leaves is a specific type of pests scientifically called the Liriomyza Munda, which is certain non-descript black-and-yellow flies.
There are several kinds of these flies, each with their own trademark damage, but their symptoms remain the same- the squiggly marks on your tomato leaves.
These flies do not cause your plants any damage except choosing the insides of their leaves to lay eggs of all places in the world. The eggs then hatch to produce larvae, which are invisible to the naked eye.
When hungry, the larvae munch their way around the leaves, foolishly leaving behind the white lines that act as telltales and give away their existence.
These larvae feed upon the chlorophyll filled healthy cells of the leaves, technically mining through them, until they reach the edge where they fall off on the ground and begin to pupate.
During this stage, they become extremely vulnerable to predators, which is the end of life for most of them.
The damage these pests cause to your plant unless in an extreme situation, is mostly ornamental and a threat to the plants’ lush green appearance. Their health is mostly unaffected by these.
However, if you do not take the proper precautions on time, these little devils can even be the end of your tomato garden. The target should be to nip the problem in the bud.
Also Read: How Long Does it Take for Cucumber to Grow?
Solving the Problem of Leaf Miners: Eight Stitches To Save Your Plants.
If you have read the article up to this point, you know everything you need to know about these notorious pests that are after your tomato plants. However, knowledge about the problem is not enough.
We fathom, by now you are eager to find out ways to eradicate these pests. Down below we have made a list of just what you’re looking for.
The age-old saying, “A stitch in time saves nine” should guide you here. Well, in this case just a stitch is not going to suffice, but keep the time part in mind.
The most important thing to take care of here is the amount of time you take to notice the problem and how quickly you are in solving it.
Down below are a few easy to follow steps that can help you save your tomato garden:
#1 Destroy the infected leaves
If you have managed to identify the problem at an early stage when there are just a few leaves infected, pluck them off of the plant and destroy them immediately before the miners can spread out to the other leaves of the plant. You can use a pruner to pluck off the infected leaves. This process helps when the infestation is at an early stage and allows you to nip it in the bud.
However, when the infestation has already spread, this process will not work as plucking too many leaves from the plants might even kill it off. Plucking the leaves can also cause some serious stress to the plants, for which you will be required to take intensive care.
#2 Collect the pests in a tray
Place a plastic tray, preferably opaque below the foliage of the plants, on the ground to collect the larvae as they fall off from the leaves. You can place the trays only under the affected plants. Check the trays every day for the larvae that fall off to pupate.
Destroy them individually. The goal is to assess the situation as the number of larvae that you find on the tray would serve as an indicator of how intense the problem is. Do not apply pesticides before the number of the larvae on the tray exceeds at least ten. Pesticides might kill off the good bugs living on the plants that are actually on your side, finishing off the larvae for dinner every day.
The most common way of getting rid of these pests is to use pesticides. Most pesticides have a hard time finding out the hidden devils that take refuge between the layers of the leaves. Also, the time of application of the pesticide is another major concern.
If you apply the pesticides too early, that is, before the larvae have developed enough, or too late, that is, after the infestation has spread too far, you will only be wasting your time. The pesticide has to be applied during early spring. Certain pesticides are available which are specifically designed to kill leaf miners. Using those is the best available solution.
#4 Go organic
Using pesticides comes with its own drawback, which is rendering your plants somewhat inedible. This is because these are chemical sprays that are often harmful to human beings. It is always advisable to go completely organic, especially when growing a vegetable as delicious and healthy as tomatoes.
Instead of commercially available pesticides that make use of poisonous chemicals, use organic alternatives such as Neem oil. This organic insecticide can drive away from the pests without harming the quality of your harvest. It also spares the useful bugs that would be killed by the insecticides.
#5 The ‘Good’ bugs
The good bugs we’ve been mentioning can actually serve as a useful weapon in fighting off these pests and keeping your tomato plants safe. A specific variety of wasps called Diglyphus isaea that is commercially available in nurseries serve as a help in this case.
You can purchase some of these and release them in your tomato garden, after which they would feast on the larvae that have been bothering you. Some naturally available bugs in your garden can also serve the purpose.
#6 The Spinosad magic
A comparatively newer insecticide based on organic compounds called Spinosad has been specially designed to relieve organic gardeners of the dilemma of choosing between an insect-free garden and an organic garden. This organic compound will kill off the pests while leaving your tomatoes unharmed.
#7 A clean garden is a healthy garden:
Always keep your garden clean and free from debris or weeds that may encourage the growth of pests. A clean garden is a must for healthy tomatoes.
#8 Provide proper care
There can be no alternative to providing the required care to the plants, including adequate watering and nourishment. Your plants should always be healthy enough to fight off any infestation and survive the plucking of leaves.
Tomatoes are delicate plants that are susceptible to a host of infestations and diseases. Taking proper care of the plants and always looking out for signs of diseases and infestations is a must. With the right amount of care, the perfect batch of tomatoes harvested from your own garden can never be very far from you.
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