What is Blossom End Rot?
In its simplest sense, blossom end rot is a disease that results from calcium deficiency, which is common in enlarging fruits. Unlike other diseases that are commonly due to the infestation of garden pests, this problem is physiological in nature. Calcium is present in plants as a dissolved nutrient. The root absorbs calcium and transfers it to the other parts of the plant, especially new shoots and leaves.
There are many reasons why plants can suffer from calcium deficiency. If the soil is coarse, sandy or acidic, this means that minimal calcium will also be present. Plants can also be deprived of calcium if the moisture in the soil is uneven or if you are using more fertilizer that what is necessary. In some cases, even if there is calcium in the soil, it exists in a non-soluble form, and hence, the root fails to absorb the nutrients. This commonly happens if the soil has a high content of phosphorous.
Because the disease is not fungal, it will not spread from one plant to another through factors like wind and water. This can happen to a plant only when the soil is short of calcium. The problem, however, can worsen as a result of fluctuations in moisture or drought stress.
Identifying Blossom End Rot’s Damage
Below are some of the signs that will give you an idea that blossom end rot is the problem in your plants:
- Circular patches will appear on the fruit. The color will range from green, brown, or black. This will commonly appear in the area where the flower is present. This will normally happen when the fruit is about 1/3 of its maturity.
- After some time, the spot will grow larger as the fruit grows bigger as well. At this point, the damage will be more visible. The spots will turn dry and some portions of the fruit will shrink. A leathery or papery substance may appear around these spots. Portions of the fruit will also be softer compared to the other parts.
Results of Infestation
In most instances, blossom end rot will bring cosmetic damages to the fruits of their host plants. It will start with small and circular patches. When it grows larger, it will cover a bigger area of the fruit, resulting in deformation. This, in turn, will make the fruit unfit for human consumption and unmarketable. Hence, for commercial growers, they will inevitably suffer from profit loss as no one will be interested in buying an unattractive crop. The deformity will also make the fruit susceptible to the entry of pathogens that can bring diseases, worsening the damage.
How to Get Rid of Blossom End Rots
Natural and Organic Solutions
To prevent blossom end rot and to control its damage, below are some of the methods that will prove to be promising:
- Before planting, consider doing a test of the pH level in the soil. Ideally, it should be anywhere from 6.5 to 6.8. You can consider adding high calcium limestone to adjust the acidity of the soil. Lime does not only improve pH in the soil, but also effective in making the calcium higher. Be sure to do it a few weeks before planting since it might take a while before the soil will absorb it.
- Because one of the causes of blossom end rot is having too many fertilizers, avoid over-fertilizing. Experts recommend using about 1.5 pounds of fertilizer per 100-square inch. This, however, is not standard. The specific condition of the soil will still be a critical factor when it comes to how much fertilizer you need to use.
- Prevention of moisture stress will also help. Mulching will help to ensure consistent moisture on the soil. This also necessitates the need to use right watering techniques, making sure that you do not overdo it. A good drainage is also vital. If the plant sits longer in a moist soil, the higher is the likelihood that its roots will rot.
- When it comes to watering, consistency is one of the most important. It is not enough that you water regularly. You have to do so at the same rate. In most tomato plants, for instance, 1.5 inches of water in a week will be enough. Using a soaker hose is also good to control water.
- Choosing the right variety of plants to grow is also a good thing. Do not hesitate to ask people from your local nursery. You can also do online research to know more about the cultivars that can resist blossom end rot.
- Remove any fruit that is already showing signs of blossom end rot. While this is not a fungal disease that can spread through wind or water, it will be an entry for pathogens. When the latter happens, bacteria or fungi that can cause disease will easily get into the plant and the infestation will spread.
There are no chemical sprays that will be effective for blossom end rot. Again, this is because it is not due to a fungus that you can prevent through the use of toxic chemicals. Rather, it is a nutritional deficiency. With this, a better solution is to supplement calcium. This is possible by adding calcium carbonate to the soil. Even anti-acid tablets will work. Insert them into the bottom of the plant and this will increase the level of calcium on the surface. You can combine three tablets, one quart of water, and eight ounces of milk. Apply it on the soil, focusing on the area near the base of the plant.