Q. I am having trouble with my tomatoes. I have noticed brown spots near the base of the fruit. They start out small but continue to increase in size. What is this disease and how can I get rid of it?
A. Well, if it is any consolation, you are not alone. We've had several calls from folks that appear to have the same tomato malady as you. The culprit is Blossom-end rot (BER), and it is actually a physiological disorder, not a disease. It is easily identified as a brown, leathery rot developing on or near the blossom-end of the fruit. It starts with a dry brown, dime-sized lesion, generally increasing in diameter as the condition worsens. In time, the lesions often become covered with a black mold. It can appear on both green, immature fruit and ripening fruit.
BER is a calcium deficiency within the plant. This deficiency is typically induced by fluctuations in the plant’s water supply. Due to the fact that calcium is not a highly “mobile” element in the plant, even brief changes in the water supply can cause BER. Droughty soil or damage to the roots from excessive or improper cultivation (severe root pruning with a tiller) can limit water intake, preventing the plant from getting the calcium that it needs. Also, if plants are growing in highly acidic soil or are getting too much water from heavy rain, over-irrigation, or high relative humidity, they can develop a calcium deficiency and BER. To control BER, take the following steps:
In general, it's easier and cheaper to take steps early to prevent blossom end rot in tomatoes than it is to treat the problem once it shows up. I hope this information has been helpful. Following these simple steps should greatly reduce your BER woes in the future. Garden Talk is written by Bethany A. O’Rear of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, C. Beaty Hanna Horticulture & Environmental Center, which is based at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.
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