From Across the Field: 7-23-2020

Tomato Troubles?

Mid to late July always seems to be the calm before the storm here in the Extension office, with the storm being the county fair. While I certainly enjoy the fair, it’s passing means that the end of summer is near, fall harvest is approaching, and planning for winter meeting season must begin.

That said, this year feels a bit different. We know that the fair is going to be scaled down to showcase the youth that have completed livestock projects. At this point, in-person fall Extension programming is on hiatus, and we don’t yet know what winter meeting season will look like.

While these unknowns and change of plans are at times inconvenient and frustrating, I think there is some good that has come out of this COVID situation with regards to how we provide Extension services. It has allowed us to refocus on priorities and utilize different ways of providing education and programming.

This is the time of year when we hear about the bottom of tomatoes rotting, this is actually called blossom-end rot. This is not a disease but a disorder which affects tomato, pepper, squash, and eggplant, and occurs when soil moisture is uneven. It is easily recognized by the flat, leathery, discolored area on the blossom end of the fruit.

Blossom-end rot occurs when there is a calcium deficiency in the blossom-end of the fruit. If demand for calcium exceeds the supply during rapid fruit development, deprived tissues break down, leaving the leathery-looking blossom end to the fruit.  It may be due to lack of calcium in the soil; however, this is not usually the case. The real culprit is usually drastic changes in weather (cool to hot) or uneven or extreme soil moisture fluctuations. When these situations are prevalent during fruit development, calcium uptake is limited, or non-existent and blossom end rot can occur.

What is a gardener to do? Avoid wide fluctuations in soil moisture. Calcium sprays for the fruit are sometimes recommended, but are of little value due to poor absorption and movement of the calcium to the fruit. Long term solution is to make sure the pH is at acceptable levels by adding lime to the soil (this fall will be an excellent time to apply lime).  Soil test kits are available at the Extension office to help determine your garden nutrient needs. The good news is if the fruit is ripe, the undamaged portion should be fine to eat.

Also, if anyone that had their private pesticide license expire this year and did not attend recertification, I can still get you recertified for 2020. Just give me a call and we will make arrangements to complete this. I’ll end this week with a quote from J.P. Morgan: “A man always has two reasons for doing anything: a good reason and the real reason..” Have a great week.

Garth Ruff,

Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Educator

OSU Henry County Extension

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