Tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV) can cause serious damage to tomato, pepper, lettuce, and other crops. The virus is transmitted by several species of thrips. The objective of this study was to determine the effect of the time (t, days after transplanting) when TSWV symptoms first appeared on tomato plant size and fruit yield. Tomato (`Florida-47') plants were drip-irrigated and planted over black plastic mulch. The experiment was carried out in Tifton, Ga., during Spring 1999. High populations of thrips were detected since early stages of plant development, which resulted in a high incidence of TSWV. Plant fresh weight was significantly higher (r2 = 0.632, n = 216) the later in plant development TSWV symptoms first appeared (i.e., with increasing t values). Total fruit production of individual plant linearly increased with increasing t values (r2 = 0.664, n = 216). As with total fruit production, fruit marketable yield was also higher with increasing t values; however, marketable yield was significantly reduced even when plants were infected later in the season (t > 55 days after transplanting). Our results suggest that it is important to keep tomato plants free from TSWV as long as possible. This applies to both developing and developed plants.