Tomato Pest – Tomato Russet Mite

So this week I learnt all about a new tomato pest.

Tomatoes are one of my biggest teachers here in this sub tropical climate of ours. I’ve experienced varying degrees of wilt, I’ve had leaf curl and now a whole new beast, a russet mite.

It’s probably a good thing as my little girl has an allergy to tomatoes and finds them irresistible.

Initially this showed up as slightly yellowing leaves halfway up the plant. My initial thoughts were a nutrient deficiency as I couldn’t see any bugs, but I was baffled as the top and bottom of the plant were unaffected. I added all the things that would help with the slight chlorosis .

After the yellowing the leaves would then turn brittle and die, almost like they were burnt. The colouring of the plant had a rusty look, and it moved over the fruit as well.

Russet Mite affected tomatoes
You can see the fruit with the ‘rust’ like look and to the top right the branches with the brown fuzz

So my second thought was perhaps it was getting a bit of water overspray from my neighbouring corn patch that was constantly seeking water. So I made sure the overspray wasn’t occurring, the problem persisted.

I googled my butt off trying to find the cause. I asked in several gardening forums. Everyone just told me to add epsom salts.

It wasn’t until I visited my local library and found a book on tomatoes that I found the cause. Tomato Russet Mite. A tiny insect that is not visible to the naked eye, but has a very distinct fury ‘rust’ like affect on the plants and fruit.

I am currently treating the plants with eco-oil, but it’s a losing battle to gain control of it organically, I will most likely harvest the remaining fruit and bin the plants.

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