Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Who is Eating your Tomatoes?

On Friday two shareholders stopped me with questions about our tomatoes. One person noticed a giant green caterpillar in the cherry tomatoes, and the folks were having some trouble with theirs
in their yard and wanted to compare notes. I mentioned that it seemed a fairly average year so far for tomatoes….which these days, means it’s not stellar. What I mean by that is it seems as
though it is nearly impossible to avoid some sort of devastating tomato disease in this region.
Our tomatoes at the farm this summer started very strong with individual harvests yielding approximately 800 lbs. After a few weeks though, they have quickly reached a plateau and now
we are yielding closer to 100 lbs per harvest. In addition to the onslaught of typical tomato diseases (which shoes up as brown and yellow leaves and some sunken, soft spots on the
tomatoes themselves), we are also under siege from some hungry caterpillars!
Yellow Striped Army Worm (photo, below left)- this critter eats both the leaves and the fruit of tomatoes. It has become more of a problem in this are in the last few years, as it has been able to overwinter and survive the warmer winter months.
Tomato Horn Worm (photo, below right)- Hornworms strip leaves from plants. If a heavy infestation develops, caterpillars also feed on fruit. They feed on the surface leaving large, open scars. Hornworm
damage usually begins to occur in midsummer and continues throughout the remainder of the growing season. Hornworms are often controlled by parasitic wasps (Brachonid wasps). These
parasitoids lay eggs into the hornworms where their larvae feed inside, and then pupate on the backs of the hornworms. These pupal cases are seen as white projections on the back of the
hornworm. If parasitized hornworms are found on the crop, we leave the larva for the next generation of beneficial wasps to emerge.
Yellow Striped Army Worm
Tomato Horn Worm

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