Every gardener knows that dealing with pest, insects, and fungus can be very difficult. Not only do these pests damage the crops, but also multiply fast enough and spread all over the area. While some plants are natural pest repellent, most aren't. Aphid is one such life sucking pest that can cause extensive damage to the tomato plants. It is important to tackle them before they greatly affect their yield.
Aphids are commonly known as plant lice, and are soft bodied insects, generally less than 1/8th inch in length. Their color varies as per their type: red, brown, green, yellow, or black. Their slender mouth has strong needle-like parts, which are used for effectively piercing stems, leaves, and fruits to suck out plant fluids. The small tube-like projections from their hind end are known as cornicles.
One will always find these organisms on tomato plants, which is quite harmless, unless they multiply and spread. Aphids multiply only when the conditions are conducive for them to do so, mostly during the spring and summer. Only a couple of them are required to colonize an entire plant, and when it gets too crowded for them, their winged offspring are produced, facilitating them to move on and infect other plants.
Unchecked growth of these insects causes curling and yellowing (decay) of leaves and tomatoes, and in extreme conditions they even lead to stunting of the overall plant growth. Aphids secrete a sticky fluid called honeydew, which turns black with time, promoting the growth of mold fungus. Certain horticulture studies also indicate that these insects are capable of injecting toxins into tomato plants. These also might transmit viruses to different vegetable and fruit crops.
How to Get Rid of Aphids
The prevention or containment of infection from these insects can be well managed with some basic precautions and applications of certain fungicides and insecticides. Aphids should be removed physically, if they are present in lesser numbers. One can usually find them on the underside of leaves or stems from where tomato flowers sprout. If one is purchasing tomato seedlings from nurseries, check thoroughly for any infected part.
If the plant is badly infected, prune away the infected parts. Although pruning will not get rid of them, it will slow down their growth. Spray insecticide straight onto the infected part. A strong flush of water will dislodge them. Another way of controlling the spread of aphids is to avoid over-fertilizing the plant; instead use slow releasing organic fertilizers. Sunlight also helps in eliminating these insects. There should be enough air and sunlight for your plants. Pruning the tomato crops will save you quite a headache from aphids.
Make a soapy solution using hand washing liquid with dish soap or detergent, and spray the aphids with it, soaking them completely. The soap in the water irritates and kills them. Do it at least twice a week, until you notice a reduction in their numbers, and then bring the frequency down by a spray once in a week.
In most cases, just a regular check on your tomato plants will ensure that they are not get bogged down with the insects. Aphids can also invite other slightly larger insects and birds of prey on them, which could lead to extensive damage of the tomato plants.