Blossom end rot- looks like a ripe perfect tomato from the top, but rotten on the bottom. Such a bummer.
One of our whole fields is only producing tomatoes with rot. IT IS A BUMMER, I SAY, A BUMMER.
But Dale put fish emulsion on all the tomatoes today which would possibly help.
almost ever gardener has run into this stuff. We’ve had it here at the house in the past, my sister-in-law is getting hit with it right now. It’s a nasty looking disease, and can drive you crazy when you go to pick that nice looking tomato and see that the whole bottom half of the tomato is rotted away. It seems to be hitting a lot of people really hard this year, so I did a bit of research.
So what is it? Well it isn’t caused by insects or fungus or anything like that. It is a disease of the plant itself. Treating it with pesticides, fungicides, etc isn’t going to do anything for it.
The disease appears because of environmental conditions. It is generally linked to the water supply to the plant and calcium, and pops up often during drought when rapidly growing plants experience a lack of water to the roots or the roots can’t take up enough water and calcium to allow the fruit to develop properly. It can also be caused by disturbing the roots of the plant. Planting in very heavy, cold soil can also be a cause because the roots can’t develop properly and spread out enough to get adequate moisture and calcium.
It DOES NOT spread from plant to plant. If you only have a few plants with the disease, it will not spread to the others. It is not contagious. And the severity of the disease can diminish as the season progresses, with fruit appearing later being useable.
Controlling it requires adequate moisture and calcium, especially while the fruit is developing. Plants need well drained, aerated soil. Planting in warmer, looser soils can help. Watering must be done frequently enough to maintain adequate soil moisture in times of stress. Do not hoe close to the plant or disturb the plant’s roots.
Shading the plants can help in hot, dry, windy conditions with low soil moisture.
If you fertilize, use a low nitrogen but high phosphate fertilizer, like a 4-12-4.
If it is a severe problem, you can try spraying the plant’s leaves with a calcium chloride solution. But be careful! Calcium Chloride can be harmful to the plant if applied too often or too heavily! This is not a substitute for proper soil conditioning and water supply!
There is conflicting information about using the calcium spray. One University of Ohio paper I read indicated that it did little or nothing to help the situation. While some of the plants they experimented with did improve, the improvement could just as easily have been due to the plant itself naturally recovering.
The commercial products on the market claiming to cure blossom end rot aren’t worth the money from what I’ve been able to discover. While there are a great many testimonials proclaiming their value, they products themselves are all little more than the above mentioned calcium chloride solution, only far more expensive. And the results I’ve seen in the papers I’ve looked at are mediocre at best.
Summing up: Blossom end rot is not caused by pests, parasites, fungus, etc. Spraying or treatment for pests isn’t going to do any good at all. It is caused entirely by the plant being unable to pick up enough calcium from the soil during periods of moisture stress, root damage, poor soil to begin with, etc.
It IS NOT contagious. It is caused entirely by environmental factors. If you have a large number of plants with the disease, it’s because all of those plants are going through similar types of stress. There is no need to remove the effected plants and dispose of them. Effected plants and fruit can be safely composted without spreading the disease.
It does not “carry over” from one year to the next because there is nothing to carry over.
It can be controlled with proper preparation of the soil, making sure the soil has adequate calcium and avoiding damaging the roots of the plants.
Spraying the leaves with a mild calcium chloride solution can help, but not always, and the effectiveness is, frankly, questionable. Some studies claim it does nothing at all. There are no commercial products that will ‘cure’ BER. The calcium sprays may help, but then again, they may not.
BTW it doesn’t just hit tomatoes. it also hits cucumbers (I’ve got a bit of it out at the farm, but nothing serious) and eggplant.
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