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A word from UGA Extension
Herbicide damage a common occurrence in tomatoes
Ingram Sam
Sam Ingram

Every year there seems to be many cases of defects in tomatoes. These include symptoms such as: poor seed germination, death of young plants, twisted leaves that are fiddle shaped, curled and cupped leaves, and reduced yields. This is usually from herbicide damage which is caused from diseases, insects and mostly herbicide drift. Many cases shown this summer have been planted in hay or compost that has been fertilized with manure.

Picloram is one of the herbicides that cause herbicide damage to other plants. When tomato plants are exposed they exhibit symptoms soon, such as, yellowed and withered leaves, curled leaves, horizontally bent stems, lesions, and cracks. Usually the symptom that catches the eye of the grower is when the leaves become fiddle-shaped and curled. 2,4-D shares the same damage and symptoms, they just develop at a slower pace. (Israel, n.d.)

Picloram is a systemic herbicide and a chlorinated solution. It is usually used on woody plants, but it can be used on broad-leaf plants, Grasses are usually resistant. With that, it is usually used as an herbicide in hay fields, since the grass will not be affected. It may be applied many different ways, like spray on foliage, injection, applied to cuttings, or placed at the base of the plant.

If you use manure from livestock as a fertilizer, mixture with organic soil, or plant in hay bales, make sure you know the history. Ask the person what herbicides were sprayed on their hayfields this season. Ask the livestock owner where they bought their hay, or what their animal has consumed in the past few months. If they do not know about their hay and what herbicides have been sprayed, steer away from using that manure in your garden or planting your plants in contaminated hay bales. When planting your garden, make sure you keep records. Write down the date, location, and what you planted. Be aware of your surroundings, as plants can become damaged from carryover. Other crops may be resistant to 2,4 D and picloram and used to kill weeds, where as it will kill the tomato plant as a whole. Keep an eye on your plants daily so you can catch symptoms early and diagnose the problem, whether it is herbicide damage, bacteria, or insect damage.

If it is detected that your crop is suffering from herbicide damage there is not much that can save it. In the future, plant your crop in a different spot, keep accurate records, and make sure you learn the history on the products you are using, such as hay and livestock manure. The two go hand in hand. Stay away from hay products that have been treated with picloram and 2,4-D.

This was written by Ashlyn Brooker, UGA Extension intern

For more information or questions, contact Effingham County Extension agent Sam Ingram at 754-8040 or