Tomato Leaf Problems: A Visual Guide | You Should Grow

We have had really strange weather lately, hot then cold then humid then wet then dry! Enough to make a tomato plant cry. Some of my customers have contacted about some leaf rolling, spots etc.  Even I am starting to see what I think is called Septoria Leaf Spot. this is a guide that you can use to try and tell what is wrong with your tomato leaves. Courtesy of You Should Grow.

If you’ve ever grown tomatoes before, you’re probably familiar with tomato leaf problems. You might have noticed your tomato plant leaves turning yellow, brown, or getting spots.

SO WHAT CAUSES THESE TOMATO PLANT PROBLEMS?

We all love the flavor of a homegrown tomato. You just can’t get the same intensity and sweetness from any tomato at the grocery store. But homegrown tomatoes also come with lots of pest and disease issues.

The unfortunate reality is that tomatoes are susceptible to many pests and diseases. And many of them lead to yellow or brown spots on tomato leaves. Often you can determine the cause of the issue just by looking at the leaves.

The particular pattern of yellowing or spotting will give you lots of information about what disease or pest is plaguing your tomato plant. Use this guide to tomato leaf problems help you figure out what’s wrong and what, if anything, you can do about it.

NUTRIENT DEFICIENCIES THAT CAUSE PALE OR YELLOW LEAVES ON TOMATO PLANTS

Whenever your plant’s leaves look pale, but the plant is otherwise healthy, try adding an organic liquid fertilizer first. Neptune’s Harvest is a reliable brand that we frequently use. Liquid fertilizer is more quickly absorbed, and you should notice improvement within a day or two.

Trays of tomato seedlings. Some healthy leaves and some yellow leaves

Whatever the deficiency, the liquid fertilizer should take care of it. But if you want to know exactly which nutrient is deficient, you might be able to figure it out by looking at the specific pattern of yellowing.

If you notice your young leaves (those at the top of the plant) are yellow with green veins, suspect iron deficiency. Check your soil pH to make sure it is between 6 and 6.8. If it’s too high, your tomato can’t take up necessary nutrients including iron.

If you notice older leaves (those at the bottom of the plant) are yellow with green veins, suspect potassium deficiency.

Yellow tomato leaves with green veins (indicates nutrient deficiency).

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If you notice dark spots within the yellow areas and the leaves are small and narrow, you might have a zinc deficiency.

If young leaves are pale and the growing tips of your tomato plant die, suspect calcium deficiency.

Stunted plants with general yellowing of the leaves is an indication of nitrogen deficiency.

It’s best practice to have your soil tested to confirm nutrient deficiencies before adding anything other than organic fertilizer and compost.

Adding too much synthetic fertilizer can burn your plants, and overuse of lime and wood ash can alter your soil pH causing more problems with nutrients than they prevent.

Learn about using fertilizer in your veggie garden.

YELLOW TOMATO LEAVES DUE TO PESTS

Pests are a common cause of tomato leaf problems. They are often carriers of tomato diseases as well, so it’s prudent to keep an eye out for any insects on your tomatoes. Read about some of the bugs I’ve found in my tomatoes.

Aphids love tomato plants and cause yellow, misshapen, and sticky leaves. Look for tiny insects on the undersides of leaves and on the stem. These pests will suck the sap from your tomato plant and can be a real problem in any garden.

Aphids are a common pest of tomato plants. Yellow leaves that have a sticky substance with tiny bugs on the undersides of leaves and stems are a sign of this pest.

If you notice dark spots within the yellow areas and the leaves are small and narrow, you might have a zinc deficiency.

If young leaves are pale and the growing tips of your tomato plant die, suspect calcium deficiency.

Stunted plants with general yellowing of the leaves is an indication of nitrogen deficiency.

It’s best practice to have your soil tested to confirm nutrient deficiencies before adding anything other than organic fertilizer and compost.

Adding too much synthetic fertilizer can burn your plants, and overuse of lime and wood ash can alter your soil pH causing more problems with nutrients than they prevent.

Learn about using fertilizer in your veggie garden.

YELLOW TOMATO LEAVES DUE TO PESTS

Pests are a common cause of tomato leaf problems. They are often carriers of tomato diseases as well, so it’s prudent to keep an eye out for any insects on your tomatoes. Read about some of the bugs I’ve found in my tomatoes.

Aphids love tomato plants and cause yellow, misshapen, and sticky leaves. Look for tiny insects on the undersides of leaves and on the stem. These pests will suck the sap from your tomato plant and can be a real problem in any garden.

Aphids are a common pest of tomato plants. Yellow leaves that have a sticky substance with tiny bugs on the undersides of leaves and stems are a sign of this pest.

They can be many colors, but we often see the red/pink ones. Ants love the sticky substance they excrete, and you may have an issue with both insects at the same time.

Treat aphids organically by dusting them with diatomaceous earth.

Brownish, finely dotted leaves with thin webs are an indication of spider mites. Look for tiny spider-like insects on your leaves that make fine webs between and below the leaves. Infested leaves will dry up and fall off.

 

Spider mite damage to tomato leaves

Spider mites and aphids can be treated with diatomaceous earth (DE). DE is a natural substance that is readily available at local garden centers.

We use a plant duster like this one to apply diatomaceous earth to affected plants. This powder will cut through the aphids’ soft exoskeletons and cause them to dehydrate and die.

Rain and watering will negate the effect of the DE so reapply as needed. Be careful to use DE in well-ventilated areas as inhaling this powder can cause damage to your lungs. And the lungs of kids, pets, and chickens, too!

If they get really bad, other forms of organic pest control including insecticidal soaps and spinosad sprayscan also help.

YELLOW LEAVES WITH HOLES

Whenever you see holes in your tomato leaves, you should suspect insect damage. Colorado potato beetles, tomato hornworms, grasshoppers, and flea beetles are all common culprits. Remove and squish these pests when you see them and utilize organic pest control practices to manage them.

Pests eating holes in tomato leaves

YELLOW LEAVES AND PLANTS THAT WILT

There are several kinds of wilt caused by bacteria, fungi, nematodes, and toxins that can affect tomatoes. Regardless of the cause of the wilt, it’s best to remove severely affected plants from your garden and destroy them.

For mild infections, remove affected leaves (usually the lower leaves) and send them to the landfill or burn them in an area well removed from your garden. Do not compost diseased plants or leaves.

Image of a wilted tomato plant with yellow leaves commonly seen with tomato diseases

Fusarium and Verticillium wilt cause yellowing and wilting beginning with the lower leaves.

Tomatoes planted within about 50 feet of a black walnut tree, may suddenly wilt and die. This is caused a toxin secreted from the roots of black walnut trees and tree stumps.

Nematodes in the soil can infect the roots of your plants and cause wilt. If you pull up wilted plants and notice swollen sections in the root balls, nematodes may be the problem. Choose resistant varieties and/or add parasitic nematodes to decrease the incidence of disease.

There are many varieties of tomatoes that are documented to be resistant to various types of wilt. Look for resistance codes BFNV (Bacterial, Fusarium, Nematodes, Verticillium).

A note about resistance: don’t expect resistant varieties not to be affected by these diseases. Expect them to tolerate the disease. Remove and destroy affected leaves as they appear, and the plant should continue to produce fruit for you.

YELLOW LEAVES WITH BROWN SPOTS, MOTTLED, OR DAPPLED APPEARANCE

Pale thin spots like the ones below are due to leaf burn. Leaves will experience sunburn when they haven’t been properly hardened off or when water droplets concentrate light on the leaves. If the burn is not too extensive, your plants will heal on their own and are not cause for concern.

Sunburn spots on tomato leaves

LEAF PROBLEMS DUE TO TOMATO PLANT DISEASES

Tobacco Mosaic Virus

Dappled yellow leaves with twisty new growth are common with tobacco mosaic virus. This virus is often transmitted by insects and especially aphids.

Do not try to treat these plants. Destroy them and remove them from your property, and be sure to wash your hands after touching any plant you suspect could be infected with this virus.

When choosing tomato varieties for future gardening seasons, look for the TMV resistant label.

Bacterial Speck and Bacterial Leaf Spot

Small dark spots on leaves that then turn brown and fall off are a symptom of bacterial speck and bacterial leaf spot. These diseases thrive in hot, humid environments and can be transmitted by your hands and garden tools.

Be careful working with plants suspected to be infected with this disease. To prevent future issues, remove and destroy severely infected plants and choose varieties with BLS and PST resistance in the future.

Late Blight on tomatoes

Leaves develop brown patches that turn dry and papery when they become infected with late blight. Sometimes a white mold grows along the edges of the brown patches. If your tomato plants have late blight you will also notice blackened areas along the stems and the tomatoes develop hard brown lesions.

Dry papery leaves & white moldy growth: Image of symptoms of late blight on tomato

Late blight will wipe out your tomato crop, and there is no treatment for infected plants. So try to prevent this disease by removing and destroying infected plants. Don’t compost them. Send them to the landfill and clean and remove all remnants of the infected crops from your garden.

Here’s a video from the University of Maine about late blight:


For future crops, try applying a preventative copper fungicide or Bacillus subtilis spray, make sure to water your plants at the base as wet conditions favor the spread of this disease, and look for resistant varieties labeled LB.

Septoria Leaf Spot

Septoria leaf spot has a similar appearance, but the brown patches are circular with light centers and dark specks. And the disease will start with the older leaves. Trim off infected leaves and remove them from your garden. Sanitize your hands after dealing with infected plants.

Early Blight on tomato plants

Early blight causes spots of dark concentric rings on leaves and stem of the lower plant first.

Early blight tends to strike your tomato plants when they’re loaded with fruit and days are humid and warm.

Preventative sprays may help slow the onset and spread of the disease, but infected plants should be removed and destroyed. Look for resistant varieties labeled AB (A for Alternaria fungal species) for future gardens.

Ring shaped lesions on a tomato leaf with yellowing of tomato leaves

Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus

Dark brown rings on the leaves can also be caused by tomato spotted wilt virus. In this disease process, you’ll also notice brown streaks on the stems, stunted or one-sided growth, and green rings on immature fruit.

This disease is spread by tiny flying insects called thrips. Check purchase plants carefully for signs of thrips and disease before bringing them home to your garden.

Practice good pest control and remove infected plants to control the spread of this disease. Resistant varieties are labeled TSWV.

Bacterial Canker disease on tomato plant leaves

Leaves with brown edges may be caused by bacterial canker. Lower leaves will also curl up and you may see light brown streaks on the stems of your plant. This disease often shows up after plants have been injured, so be careful when trimming your plants not to leave open wounds.

A note about disease resistance:

Don’t expect resistant varieties not to be affected by these diseases. Expect them to tolerate the disease. Remove and destroy affected leaves as they appear, and the plant should continue to produce fruit for you.

TOMATO LEAF PROBLEMS YOU SHOULD NOT WORRY ABOUT

Tomato leaf curl is often an environmental change due to stress. With no other symptoms of disease, no treatment is necessary.

Purple leaves are caused by expression of anthocyanin due to light exposure. Often appearing on plants grown under intense light, there is no cause for concern or need for treatment of purple tomato leaves.

Purple or curled leaves on tomato plants: these are often not a cause of concern.

QUICK TIPS FOR DEALING WITH TOMATO LEAF PROBLEMS.

  1. Make sure your plants have adequate nutrients. Try an organic liquid fertilizer first.
  2. Check for pests on the stems and undersides of your tomato leaves. Remove them by hand and use organic pest control sprays retreating as needed.
  3. If you do find leaves that are yellow, wilted, or spotty. Remove them immediately and dispose of them in your trash. Wash your hands after you handle any plants you suspect may be infected with fungal, bacterial, or viral diseases.
  4. Plant resistant varieties remembering that even resistant plants can be affected by tomato plant diseases but will often continue to produce if cared for properly (remove infected leaves, water, fertilize).
  5. Severely affected plants should be removed from the garden and disposed of as soon as possible.
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5 Great Tomatoes for Cool Climates | Veggie Gardener (With Commentary from The Tomato Lady!)

this is a good article that I got in my email. it showcases early tomatoes. I  have grown all of these but Novia. I am carrying SubArctic, Legend, and Black Prince. Look for my My Two Cents Worth: I will tell you my thoughts on the variety.

Here’s a tip for early tomatoes. I will try it and let you know how it works. Or you can try it and let me know how it works for you. Flick the blossoms (they are self pollinating) or take a cotton swab/paint brush to pollinate your early tomatoes. Sometimes we don’t have the necessary wind or the bees aren’t out yet so they aren’t being pollinated, therefore no fruit. I don’t know why I never thought of this myself!

Tomatoes are very adaptive plants, and can produce fruit in a wide variety of climates and regions. Whether you live in zone 4 or in zone 10, you can grow tomatoes without too much trouble.Although this is true it is important to choose varieties that are well-matched for the climate you live in for the best results. Some tomato varieties perform best in very warm climates, while others are bred for better production in cooler climates.If you live in a cool climate (from zone 6 to zone 4) here are five tomato varieties that should thrive for your area.

Northern Exposure

Northern Exposure is a determinate tomato variety that performs very well in cool climates. They are generally ready to pick in about 67 days after transplanting outside which is great for shorter seasons.The compact size of this tomato plant makes them perfect for containers. According to my sources it is now sold on Burpee seed racks as Burpee Early Harvest Hybrid. I honestly don’t know why they change the names! My Two Cents Worth: I have grown this for sale but not put it in my own garden (I only have so much garden space). I have heard from my customers that they love this tomato. It is a very healthy plant in my greenhouse.

 

Sub Arctic

With a name like Sub Arctic you know this tomato does well in cooler, short climates. It is a determinate variety that produces four ounce tomatoes in about 42 days after transplanting.Ideal for short seasons in the north, or for a quick harvest in southern vegetable gardens. My Two Cents Worth: I love this tomato. Grew it for years but never put it in my garden until I had a leftover plant. I put it into an enormous container and loved, loved, loved it. They are a smaller tomato, about the size of a ping pong ball, sometimes larger and very sweet and bright red. I am offering this one this year.

Legend

The Legend tomato is another variety that produces well in cool climates and is resistant to late blight.It produces large fruit that can measure four to five inches in diameter and are a bright, glossy red color. This is one of the earliest maturing slicing tomatoes available. My Two Cents Worth: This is a lovely tomato, good flavor, consistent size, shape and color. Plus, it doesn’t want to take over the world. In my garden the fruit didn’t get to 5″ across but about the size of baseballs. I am offering this one this year.

Novia

The Novia tomato variety is an indeterminate that produces seven to nine ounce fruit and is very disease resistant.They contain a high level of lycopene which is a beneficial antioxidant. These tomatoes perform well in cooler climates, but can also be grown as far south as zone 9.

Black Prince

The Black Prince tomato variety comes from Siberia, so you know it is used to some cold weather and short seasons.This heirloom tomato features medium-sized fruit that are a deep red with green to purplish shoulders. They are loved for their rich, almost smoky tomato flavor and excellent hardiness in cold temperatures. My Two Cents Worth: This is very pretty tomato. One of those that are considered “black” Mine were a dark, dusky puprle with green shoulders and about the size of large eggs. The inside is a  beautiful dark red and the taste is good but I honestly don”t get the “smokey”  flavor. I think that is a trick of the mind!  I am offering this one this year.

Source: 5 Great Tomatoes for Cool Climates | Veggie Gardener

Male And Female Peppers: Fact Or Fiction? – PepperScale

Great article from PepperScale.This is in response to a post I saw on Facebook this morning.

A plant world sex scandal… Do bell peppers have a gender? Some say they do. The idea has been around for a while but only recently has it caught traction. According to the theory, there are distinct male and female peppers and the gender indicates whether a bell pepper has more seeds or whether it […]

Source: Male And Female Peppers: Fact Or Fiction? – PepperScale

Shishito Peppers – The Gourmet Pepper From Japan

shishito-hot-pepperPepper Profiles: Shishito

This gourmet pepper is an exotic delicacy iconic to Izakaya (Japanese tapas/appetizers).The Shishito Pepper is delicious and couldn’t be easier to prepare.

Native to Japan, the slender, green peppers grow 3”- 4” long, have delicate skin and a slightly pleated surface. Most of them have a hist of grassy and peppery flavor, with a faint note of citrus. However, some (approximately one in ten) have a real bite! It’s almost like playing roulette. They mature to a fiery red.

Shishito-Pepper

The plants have a  spreading habit and produce prolifically.

To highlight their bright flavors, simply heat oil  in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat, and cook the peppers, turning occasionally, until they begin to blister on all sides. Sprinkle with a bit of sea salt—they are ready to enjoy! They are also wonderful grilled, deep fried or tossed on top of pizzas and salads.

Shishito-Peppers-Pictures

Recipe: Shishito Peppers

 Courtesy of Author: Julie du Pont
Recipe type: Starter
Prep time:  2 mins
Cook time:  5 mins
Total time:  7 mins
Serves: 6
Sauteed Shishito Peppers guaranteed to get your party started!
Ingredients
  • 4 cups Shishito Peppers
  • 2 tbsp salted butter
  • 2 tbsp good soy sauce
  • Large Sea Salt Flakes
Instructions
  1. Slit the side of each pepper. I like to leave the little stem on the pepper because it allows guests to grab easily, but you can also remove the stems if that is your preference.
  2. Heat a large wok or frying pan on high heat until it is very hot. Add butter. Once butter is sizzling and almost to the point where it browns, add the peppers and toss with a wooden spoon for about 4 minutes until they begin to blister. Add soy sauce and stir with wooden spoon for about a minute until the butter and soy sauce create a glaze over the peppers. Remove from pan and dust with large flaked sea salt. Serve immediately and take your chances that you don’t get one of the spicy ones!

Tomatoes For Container Planting

Some tomatoes are more ideal for containers than others although you can put any tomato in a pot. Just be sure to make it a big pot. It will be constrained by the size of the pot. Determinates, meaning they grow 2-4 feet, are good choices. It will have plenty of room to grow and the pot won’t require as much watering due to it’s mass. A half wine barrel size is perfect. For those with small spaces that can’t accommodate a pot of that size, there are a few tomatoes that will grow quite nicely in a smaller pot than that just mentioned. Or you could try a hanging pot. One note: don’t expect to pick enough to put up 25 quarts of tomatoes. You will have enough to put into your salads and meals and if it’s a cherry tomato, enough to share with your friends. Below are few that I recommend:

 Better Bush Small, compact bush for patio, deck, or balcony containers; fruits to 8 ounces, with old-fashioned tomato flavor; from 3 to 4 feet tall; requires staking. Indeterminate, hybrid VFN, 68 days to harvest.

 Bush Early Girl Small, compact plants with top yield of 6- to 7-ounce fruits and very good flavor. Determinate, hybrid VFFNT, 54 days to harvest.

 Early Wonder Compact plant produces round, dark pink fruit to 6 ounces; full tomato flavor, great taste. Determinate, open-pollinated, 55 days to harvest.

 Patio Perfect for container gardening or limited space. Vines are extremely compact, yet produce medium-sized, deep oblate fruits that are smooth, firm and flavorful. This was a nice tomato and had surprisingly large fruits for a plant this size. Determinate, 70 days

 Mountain Princess  This early tomato from West Virginia has been grown for generations in the mountain climate of the state. Bright red and mildly  flavored, the 8 ounce fruit is round, smooth and solid.  A good short season variety that is also very productive. First introduced in the United States by Heirloom Seeds. Determinate, 68 days

 Season Starter Always grow the first tomato on the block with this super-fast determinate variety! It sets huge yields of juicy-sweet 6 oz fruits. Resistant to cracking, they hold on the plant very well after ripening. A great choice for northern climates, where the growing season is short. Determinate, 60 days

 Green Grape  – Personal Favorite These are the first, fully ripened green cherry tomato. You don’t expect them to be as yummy as they are when you bite into them. Fruits are delicious, juicy and sweet. They turn a lovely golden green when ripe and are wonderful straight from the vine. Mix with Sweet Million and Sungold cherry tomatoes for a rainbow  salad. Use in a large container planting on your deck. Determinate, 70 days

 Hundreds and Thousands  Hundreds Yes. Thousands? Not really, but you won’t go short of tomatoes with this variety. A single plant in a 13” basket produced a very impressive 504 fruits from the start of August until the end of September. The sweet, mini-cherry fruit measuring just 15 mm in diameter and are very flavorful. 

 Tumbler  Specially bred for hanging baskets. Bushy plants look fantastic mixed with lobelia and alyssum. Sweet, bright red fruits. Determinate, 45 days

 Polar Beauty  Developed in Alaska for colder climates, it bears small to medium-sized oblate tomatoes with a good, full tomato taste. Short, bushy plants are productive. Determinate, 63 days.

Siberia This might be the earliest tomato ever – only 7 weeks from transplanting to table. Capable of setting fruits at 38 F on sturdy dark green plants. The fruits are bright red, 3 to 5 oz. and bunch in clusters. Also good for a patio. Determinate, 48 day.

Bushtsteak This surprisingly compact (20-24”) plant is just loaded with large, flavorful tomatoes. Well-suited for a patio, small garden and containers, the dwarf plants offer big meaty fruit (8-12 oz.) and early maturity. Determinate, 65 days

Cougar Red  This is a new red tomato that has been grown and tested for cool summer temps with a short growing season. This meaty, medium sized fruit is good for home processing. The flavor is a good mixture of sugar and low acid. Plants of Cougar Red are vigorous and semi-determinate

Glacier Extremely early, cold-tolerant, high yielding special strain of tomato plant. Begins flowering when only 4” high. You can expect 2 to 3 oz. fruits with outstanding flavor for such an early tomato. Semi-determinate, 45 days

 

Pictured is a green grape cherry tomatoImage

 

Green Grape Tomato

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Green Grape Tomato

What can green do for you? Don’t let the color fool you. this is very, very sweet cherry tomato and it bursts in your mouth with a satisfying juiciness. They are ping pong sized and turn a lovely golden green and give to the touch when they are fully ripe. Yum. They look beautiful in a salad with other colored cherry tomatoes such as black cherry, sungold, sweet million, italian ice and the pink sugary.

Whew! Tomato Transplants Are All Done, 6500!

Took me almost four days but they have been relocated to their own little patch of heaven, a 3.5 inch pot! Better yet, I got the website up and updated with all of my 2013 varieties, all 161 of them. My peppers have been updated too, 41 varieties. If you are interested in tomatoes and peppers, check it out. There is a lot of info on how to plant them and grow them to great heights. Plus, you will be amazed how many kinds and colors there are.

the website address is:   http://www.thetomatolady.com

Watering Tomato and Pepper Plants

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Watering Tomato and Pepper Plants

After an initial watering from the top, we bottom water so as not to encourage damping off. They will wick it up from the bottom getting right to where it needs to go – the roots.

Starting Seeds Under Lights in the House

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Starting Seeds Under Lights in the House

This is a shelving rack with ordinary fluorescent lights hovering just above flats full of tomato plants. The lights need to be close to provide light and warmth otherwise the plants will get leggy

Starting Tomatoes and Peppers From Seed

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Starting Tomatoes and Peppers From Seed

When growing for your home garden, start seeds 8 weeks prior to the last frost date. Always use sterile seed starting mix and sterile pots. Buy them new every year or sterilize used pots with a 10% bleach solution. Sometimes I run mine through the dishwasher on the top rack and toss a little bleach in before I start the wash cycle (damping off can be a real problem if you don’t.)

Place the seeds on top of the medium; cover with about 1/4” inch of mix and press down with your hands to smooth. Sprinkle with water from a “gentle” watering can to avoid washing the seeds away. I then fill my flats with hot water until they start floating, they will absorb this.

Put them in a warm place. Mine go under ordinary fluorescent lights, about an inch away from the flats, in the dining room. The heat from the lights keep it warm. (You can use bottom heat such as a heating mat or the top of refrigerator if you like.) Bottom water as needed, don’t let them dry out. In about a week you should start to see germination. Grow them under the lights until you see the first true leaves, a pair of true leaves. Transplant into larger pots.

Peppers seem to take forever to germinate, sometimes as much as 3 weeks. Tomatoes can be up as early as 4 days from planting.

Key points for maximum success:
sterile seed starting mix
sterile pots
warm location for germination
water from the bottom
good ventilation

These basic instructions work for just about every seed you want to start in pots to get a jump on the season. I will post more on starting different kinds of seeds and their needs in other posts so stay tuned.