Tomato scare

Trying to protect the tomatoes-wrapping them in row cover

My tomatoes have been looking great, in fact the best ever in 25 years, but about 2-3 weeks ago I noticed a couple of the plants started getting new leaves that looked wierd-sort of fernlike which I thought was odd but they were still green so I ignored it.

Tomato 'fernlike' leaves

Well, this week I noticed about 48 plants had this weird look and the new tips were very distorted. I researched on the internet and it looked like Tobacco mosaic virus or Cucumber Mosaic virus which can spread rapidly among the plants. If your tomatoes get it, it can ruin your whole crop not to mention your whole garden for 3 years as that is how long it can remain in the soil. You must pull the plants and dispose of them as it is very contagious at least for the Tobacco Mosaic virus. I was panicky so I wrapped up the remainder of the ‘ok’ plants in row cover to try to protect them. I called Pat Torres, our County Extension Agent here in Santa Fe about sending samples down to the state lab as I feared the worst. I brought two complete plants to him on Friday, filled out some paperwork and he sent it overnight to the the lab person who went in (on his day off) on Saturday to do a diagnosis for me. What wonderful people! (Both he and Pat) The lab guy tested for all 4 major tomato viruses that are most common here in New Mexico and luckily all the tests turned out negative-no pathogens found. Yes! I’m saved! The lab guy said it looked like Herbicide Drift called Abiotic disorder (or 2,4 D damage) and felt they will outgrow the weirdness and be OK.

And the funny thing is I did spray (carefully) with Roundup 3 weeks ago my driveway and sides of the studio for weeds in the gravel that are about 100 feet uphill of my main garden. He said if you spray on a hot day (and when hasn’t it been hot here lately) it can vaporize and travel up to 400 feet anywhere the breeze blows it. That’s 100 feet more than the length of a football field. The rest of the veggies were intact because they were still under row cover. He also said some herbicides (I’m going to email him for which ones) can travel in the air for 40 miles! So be careful with Roundup or any herbicide. I always go organic in the vegetable garden but sometimes not in the regular garden. What a scary lesson!

Herbicide damage-also called 2,4 D damage

Tobacco Mosiac virus

4 comments on “Tomato scare

  1. janet hirons says:

    Wow, this must have been very scary, Jannine. I use Roundup on my driveway near my plants, so this is very helpful. Thanks for doing the research. Wow …. Janet


  2. gene solyntjes says:


    Thanks for this info about Roundup drift.

    Gene S.


  3. JB says:

    Hi. I know this is a very old post, but I was wondering were you able to eat any of the fruit produced by your 2 4D damaged tomatoes? Our tomatoes (and potatoes and green beans) were apparently contaminated by 2 4D that was in compost we applied this year to our new raised beds. 😦 The bottom half of the plants look pretty good and are starting to put on tomatoes, but the top parts of the plants look bad. We are wondering if it’s safe to eat the tomatoes or other produce, assuming the plants manage to produce any. I can’t find an answer anywhere.


    • Since I put row cover over almost all my tomatoes to keep the deadly leafhopper from biting them, I didn’t have but a couple that were exposed to my neighbors Roundup that drifted into my garden. I had pulled the affected tomato plants and sent them off to a state lab which came back with that diagnosis. I personally would not eat any veggies that have been accidentally sprayed with 2D-4 products. There are some studies that Round Up is carcinogenic. Therefore I would not eat them even though the lab said they didn’t get hit hard and would outgrow the damage. But it was a mute point as I had already pulled them. The choice is yours but I prefer organically grown food.


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