Every year we receive calls from gardeners about tomato plants with curling leaves. When tomato plants grow vigorously in mild, spring weather the top growth often exceeds the root development. When the first few days of warm, dry summer weather hit, the plant detects it has a problem and needs to increase root development. The plant tries to reduce its leaf area by rolling leaves. The leaves curl along the length of the leaf (leaflet) in an upward fashion. It is often accompanied by a thickening of the leaf giving it a leathery texture. Interestingly, leaf roll is worse on some varieties than others.
Though rolling usually occurs during the spring to summer shift period, it also may occur after a heavy cultivating or hoeing, a hard rain or any sudden change in weather such as heavy saturating rains. Too much rain can saturate the soil and suffocate the roots. The damaged root system is less able to transport water, especially when warm temperatures and winds increase water use.
Leaf roll is a temporary condition that goes away after a week or so when the plant acclimates, recovers from injury or soil dries out.
Ladybird beetles (lady bugs)
If you see what looks like very small alligator-shaped insects on your plants, don't be concerned. This is the larval form of the ladybird beetle. The larvae are covered with spines, about 3/8 inch long, and black with orange markings.
Neither the adults nor larvae will feed on the plants but rather on other insects including aphids, mealybugs, whiteflies, scale insects and the eggs of various other insects. Because those other insects normally are feeding on the plant, ladybird beetles are considered beneficial so protect them and use care and consideration before you reach for chemicals to control plant pests.
Farmers want to know
The Kansas State University AgManager.info website is the flagship of electronic extension and education programs in the K-State Department of Agricultural Economics. The site was begun in 2002, combining several individual faculty websites. Currently averaging more than 50,000 visits by more than 20,000 unique visitors each month, the AgManager.info site is one of the most comprehensive and widely used university-sponsored websites for applied research and economic outreach information.
The most popular sections of the site are livestock and grain marketing, including weekly "In the Cattle Markets" updates; grain marketing, including biweekly "Grain Outlook" reports; crop insurance and government programs; and farm management information, including a large variety of Excel spreadsheets and Web-based decision tools, such as crop and livestock budgets, land/lease tools and data sets.
Other electronic media available on AgManager.info include podcasts of faculty radio interviews on the KSRN network, found on the News page. These podcasts use MP3 audio files that can be downloaded to mobile devices or listened to directly from the site. Video also is utilized, ranging from crop insurance workshops to instructional videos for using decision tools.
A weekly update via e-mail is provided with recent updates, archives and upcoming events. The list currently includes more than 4,500 subscribers. RSS feeds also are available with recent updates to the site. AgManager.info also can be found on Facebook.
For more information or assistance on this or other topics, please call the Extension Office at 272-3670, located at 501 S. Ninth St.