Category Archives: Plant Pests

Science Triumphs

By Dudley Vines, SCMG A few months ago Linda Walsh, a 2018 SCMG intern, emailed me (one of her mentors) worried about some spots on her cherry tree. She said they looked like tiny red bugs, but since they didn’t move she thought maybe they were some sort of scale or mites. She sprayed the tree with a light-weight horticultural oil, but didn’t see any noticeable results. Then, at the SCMG end of training celebration, Linda approached me and told me her continuing sad tale.…

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Good Bug, Bad Bug

Good Bug, Bad Bug By Dudley Vines Vegetable gardeners around these parts soon learn to hate the squash bug, but check out this photo:   Spined soldier bug nymph (left) attacking squash bug nymph.     There is a wide variety of naturally occurring beneficial insects that can help keep pest insects under control if they are given a chance. Sadly, however, these insects are often misidentified and in some cases are mistaken for pests, leading to unnecessary and counter-productive insecticide applications.   Like all…

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Who’s Afraid of Curly Top?

Who’s Afraid of Curly Top?

You may remember the old Shirley Temple movies, with that cute little tap dancing tot that could charm even the crustiest curmudgeon. Shirley was nicknamed Curly Top, and she even starred in a movie by that name.

Shirley Temple

But there is another Curly Top. And it strikes fear into gardeners’ hearts. I speak of the dreaded curly top virus. There are no sprays to prevent it, and no chemicals to treat it. I have lost tomatoes to the curly top virus, and you will probably have too, or will. Before you set out tomato plants in your garden next year, while you have lots of time on your hands now that it’s winter, look over this excerpt from NMSU ACES bulletin H-106 by Dr. Natalie Goldberg. If you’re an intern, you’ll have a class on Plant Pathology next Valentine’s Day led by Dr. Goldberg, who is equally as charming as Shirley Temple.

Curly Top Virus (Photo: N. Goldberg, NMSU - PDC)
Curly top virus (CTV), or beet curly top virus (BCTV) as it is more formally known, is widespread throughout arid and semi-arid regions of the world.(Photo: N. Goldberg, NMSU – PDC)

Reading this may motivate you to go out and rid your property of those tumbleweeds and mustard plants that seem to grow everywhere around these parts.

Curly Top Virus (click on link to see the complete bulletin)
Guide H-106
Natalie P. Goldberg, Extension Plant Pathologist

Curly top virus (CTV), or beet curly top virus (BCTV) as it is more formally known, is widespread throughout arid and semi-arid regions of the world. The virus is common in the western United States from Mexico to Canada and in the eastern Mediterranean Basin. The virus has a wide host range, causing disease in over 300 species in 44 plant families. The most commonly infected hosts include sugar beets (for which the disease was first named), tomatoes, peppers, beans, potatoes, spinach, cucurbits, cabbage, alfalfa, and many ornamentals. The virus also survives in many weeds, such as Russian thistle (tumbleweed) and mustard.

This disease is transmitted (vectored) from infected to healthy plants by a small insect called the beet leafhopper (Circulifer tenellus). The leafhopper is an effective vector because it is able to transmit the virus after feeding on an infected plant for as little as 1 minute and can subsequently
transmit the virus for the remainder of its lifetime.

While the disease can occur in commercial fields, it is particularly troublesome in home garden situations. The occurrence of this disease in home gardens may be due, in part, to the presence of alternate hosts that leafhoppers prefer to feed on, as well as an increased likelihood of infected source plants in the area. There are no chemicals available for controlling the virus, but several cultural practices can help reduce or eliminate infections. Although resistance to curly top is not known, growers may benefit from trying to identify cultivars that are somewhat tolerant of the virus. Good sanitation practices, such as weed and insect control, are also essential in limiting the occurrence of the disease. Home gardeners may also consider planting susceptible hosts, such as tomatoes and peppers, in a slightly shaded part of the garden, as leafhoppers prefer to feed in sunny locations. If the garden is in full sun, it may be helpful to place a netted cage over the plants when they are young. This netted material will provide a small amount of shade and, if the holes are small enough, may actually prevent leafhoppers from getting to the plants. If a cage is used, be sure the plant doesn’t actually touch the netted material, as this will reduce the effectiveness. Remove cages when the plants are mature, as they are less susceptible to infection and will benefit from increased light for fruit development. All diseased plants should be removed from the field or garden as soon as they are noticed so that they do not continue to provide a source of the virus for transmission to healthy plants.

Plum tree with aphids

Close Encounters with the Plum Leafcurl Aphid

Close Encounters with the Plum Leafcurl Aphid It was the middle of May this year and the leaves on my toddler Toca Plum tree were looking shriveled and intensely unhappy. Feverish prayers offered at the Google altar earned the following answer by one Robert Cox of the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension: “If you find that the leaves on your plum tree are curled up, some very tightly, it is most likely caused by the Plum Leafcurl Aphid” 1 He appeared to be a man…

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Tomato Hornworms are the Enemy

by Cissy Henig, SCMG Intern Let me say up front that I’m not interested in any discussion about beneficial aspects to the tomato hornworm. In this PC world, I am sure someone believes this nasty beast has some socially redeeming value. I don’t and I don’t want to hear about it. And I’m not Gandhi; I don’t give a flying hoot about all living things and sharing the earth with them, karma for killing them, etc. My world is divided into me and my tomato…

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Seed2Need – 2014 Lessons Learned, Part II

By Penny Davis, SCMG In Part I, we discussed several problems encountered by Seed2Need over the past five years.  This month, we will discuss one other major problem – blossom end rot – and then we will talk about a few things that have worked well – tomato cages, row cover and plastic mulch. Blossom End Rot:  Every year, Seed2Need has a problem with blossom end rot (BER) at the beginning of the season.  Usually, this problem disappears after the first fruit set but in…

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Seed2Need – 2014 Lessons Learned, Part I

By Penny Davis, SCMG “Gardening is something you learn by doing and by making mistakes.  Like cooking, gardening is a constant process of experimentation, repeating the successes and throwing out the failures”  Carol Stocker Over the next two months, I would like to share some of the lessons learned from the Seed2Need project.  I hope you will find this information useful and that it will encourage you to share some of your own experiences so we can learn from one another. Root Knot Nematodes: In…

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Pine Beetle Alert – Rapid Deline of Native Pines

Sounds like I need to give my ‘Bark Beetle Talk.’ I just did that for the Little Bear Coalition in Ruidoso the first of this month. People in Ruidoso-Cloudcroft, Mountainair, the Sangre de Cristos in general, Sandias in general—wherever there are native pines—are seeing trees change color rather quickly—and then lose their needles. I strongly suspect bark beetles (BBs) have done their dirty work on all of your photographed pinyons. And the suspect would be Ips confusus….yep, gotta watch the ‘auto-correct’ function on the computer…

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Weed Management

By Dudley Vines What are our weed management options? Mechanical weed management is the physical removal of weeds. Any physical re-moval or displacement of weeds can be classified as mechanical in operation. Cultivation, mowing, hand pulling, and hoeing are ex-amples of this type of management. The success of mechanical weed management depends upon the weeds in question. Annual weeds often are effectively managed this way, while the perennial weed problem can be multiplied through the movement of the underground vegetative reproductive structure by cultivation and…

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