bell pepper "problem"

Benjamin-JSAugust 13, 2013

Hey everyone, this is my first year gardening and I'm having this issue with almost every bell pepper. Could someone tell me what the black spot is?

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Maybe Blossom End Rot?

    Bookmark   August 13, 2013 at 8:23AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

It could be Blossom End Rot, but there also are other reasons you might see those black spots develop on peppers. Some of those reasons are readily explained and some aren't.

If it is Blossom End Rot, you did not necessarily do anything to cause it and, based on the weather seen across much of OK this summer, it likely developed because of excess rainfall. BER is more common on tomatoes, but also develops on peppers and eggplant, and is related to how the vascular system of the plants distributes water throughout the plants, including the fruits. BER is often mischaracterized as being caused by a shortage of calcium, but that is an oversimplification of why it develops. It has more to do with fluctuating moisture levels and their effect on the operation of the plants' vascular system and how that then affects the distribution of calcium within the plant.

Peppers are prone to getting black spots like that for several reasons, and part of the following explanation will be quite unsatisfactory.

Sometimes you see little tan spots develop on a fruit and this is essentially sunburn. It can be caused by just a few hours of direct sun on the fruit and often occurs when a plant begins to lean over or loses or limb or something and suddenly a fruit that had been shaded somewhat by foliage gets sudden full sun exposure to at least a part of the fruit. It happens in my garden when a plant that is heavily loaded with fruit gets top-heavy and begins to lean towards the ground. I usually cage or stake pepper plants early in their lives to help prevent this. If you notice a tan patch developing on a pepper and it looks like sunscald, you can salvage the pepper by harvesting it immediately and using it, just cutting away the tan portion. If you leave a sunscalded pepper on the plant, the tan spot begins to rot and turn black, often as a secondary bacterial or fungal disease begins to infect the plant. Usually when I see black spots like you have on your pepper plant, they started out as sunscald.

Sometimes, though, you get the black area, which soon will begin to rot if it isn't already, because something damaged the fruit....could have been an insect or bird feeding on it, could have been a hail stone hit it or some other form of mechanical injury occurred.

Sometimes, though, it just happens. I grew up in Texas in a gardening family and gardened there for a couple of decades before moving here. During the time we lived there, I saw these black spots more there than I see them here, and the TAMU explanation was that sometimes it just happens, and their research had shown that the black spots often happen for reasons unknown, with no disease pathogen found on or in the damaged fruit or plants that explained why the black spots happen. So, that's the unsatisfactory part of the explanation....sometimes it just happens.

Based on personal experience, it seems to happen more often in wet years than dry ones. Or, in a dry year if you are irrigating very heavily (perhaps too much water at one time), it seems to happen.

If you are seeing forms of black or brown spotting on the plant foliage on the same plants that produce peppers with those black spots, it likely is a bacterial or fungal disease. If the plants are perfectly healthy and you can rule out insect or bird damage, hail damage, mechanical injury, etc., then it "just happened" and there is no known cure or prevention.

Bell peppers are often harvested green and shipped to grocery stores that way for good reason---because the peppers develop rot and black spot really quickly at times after they begin to develop their full, mature color. I prefer to let bell peppers turn their mature colors of orange, red, yellow, etc. before harvesting them because their flavor is fuller and richer when they reach their mature color. However, you have to pick them and use them immediately once they color up because they don't last long at their colored stage and go bad really quickly. Just leaving them on the plant a day or two longer often results in those black spots.

Usually you can cut out the bad spot and eat the pepper anyway, as long as the rest of the pepper looks fine and hasn't developed an offensive odor.

Hope this helps,


    Bookmark   August 13, 2013 at 8:50AM
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I picked a couple of peppers like that yesterday. I blamed my spots on sunscald. I keep my peppers picked close enough that the weight wont break the plant, I always pick the ones with damage first and try to salvage them by cutting the spot out and using the pepper quickly. I think that as you build your soil you will find that you have less problems with your plants.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2013 at 11:53AM
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thanks everybody

    Bookmark   August 16, 2013 at 11:01PM
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