need help white spots in most of my vegetables

serenity7art(z7 OK.)October 15, 2008

Hello, I don't usually post mostly lurk I noticed all through the season in the vege garden that there are white spots in the flesh of the tomatoes,cucumbers, etc. now that I have a great harvest of the bell peppers I have white spots in most all of them. There is 4 different varieties and they all seem to carry it. even on some of the hot peppers. we put it under a microscope and found no movement there were no cellular activity either. Is it a matter of squash bugs going around and sucking the life out or is it a bacteria or parasite? I have some photos but don't know how to post them here. thank you for any help charlene

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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Hi Charlene,

White spots in the flesh of different vegetables can mean various things so you have to analyze your soil, moisture levels, fertility levels (or lack of such), and pest problems to get to the bottom of it.

First of all, if you saw the white spots inside any of your harvested vegetables in June to mid-July before the squash bugs and stink bugs arrived, then those instances probably were not insect-related. (And, even at that, I saw stink bugs arriving in my zone 7 garden in southern OK in MAY which is highly unusual, but May was very hot and dry here in Love County, so it happened. Still, I didn't see damage on the produce itself until late July.)

Secondly, if the white flesh is entirely and completely internal with no signs of it on the outer skin of the veggies, then it probably is related either to excess moisture in the soil or excess fertility (caused by too much fertilizer because none of us has soil that is rich enough to cause 'excess fertility' by itself). When it is excess fertility, the element that is the problem is usually excess nitrogen. In watermelons and other melons, this white flesh even has a name..."white heart" and it has ruined many melons and is easily avoidable...just don't overfeed with nitrogen.

Third, if you DO see little round circles on the skin of the fruit that are a slightly different color (usually a slightly lighter color) from the rest of the skin, then it might be damage from stink bugs or leaf-footed bugs or blister beetles(most common source of such damage). I've never had squash bugs do visable damage to my squash, but only to the plants themselves. If you have stink bug/leaf-footed bug/blister beetle damage, you often will notice an off-flavor to the ligher-fleshed area of the veggie but not an off-flavor to the rest of the veggie. However, if the damage to the veggie or fruit is widespread, it could affect the taste of the entire fruit or veggie and none of it would be salvageable.

If the cause is excess fertility, you may notice that your plants were thick and green and lush and gorgeous, and produced heavily, but the inner portions of the veggies were white or whitish and had a pronounced lack of flavor. About the only remedy I know for that is to stop fertilizing the plants and instead build the soil with compost, humus, manure and other organic materials and let the soil feed the plants. You'll taste and see the difference.

Sometimes, you may have an undiagnosed nutritional deficiency in your soil that leads to such white spots. Generally, it is not caused by too little nitrogen, potassium or phosphorus, but instead by a lack of one of the necessary micro-nutrients, also known as trace elements. These are: iron, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, manganese, chlorine, boron, zinc, copper and molybdenum. And, those micronutrients are only the most common ones....there are over 70 others that have not been studied as well yet for us to know what it does to our soil/plants if those micronutrients are low. A soil test can tell you if you have a micronutrient deficiency, but you'll have to request that the test check the levels of micronutrients because a lot of the common soil tests these days mainly test for N-P-K.

Fourth, if the white spots were caused by excess moisture, there's not much you can do about that if all the moisture was falling from the skies and not from your waterhose. If you live in one of the parts of Oklahoma that has had very high rainfall this year, the excess moisture basically clogs up the roots and prevents them from absorbing nutrition from the soil. You can't do much but hope for drier weather next year. If you have been irrigating a lot, cut back next year and see if the white-flesh issues go away. Too much water and too much fertilizer both are often the major causes of many veggie is a phenomenon often referred to as "loving your plants to death".

For what it is worth, the best way to make sure that your soil is not deficient in any of the micronutrients is to add all the chopped/shredded leaves you can to your veggie garden beds in the fall. The chopped/shredded leaves have all the needed micronutrients in the right proportions and give your soil exactly what it needs to grow healthy and productive veggies.

Hope this info helps, and we can discuss it further if you have questions about specific veggies, for example.


    Bookmark   October 15, 2008 at 2:30PM
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serenity7art(z7 OK.)

thank you so much Dawn for all of your info. I did take one of the red bells to osu extension. haven't heard back from them and will Definitely test the soil. I brought in some organic compost from murphys top soil in okc. last year so I was wondering if that was the problem also. I have some left and am going to have that tested it also. I grow organically and when I do use fertilizers it is gardens alive or sustaine. I live in Edmond which we sure have our share of moisture. I will shred my leaves this year and see if that is better than composting them. I got lazy last year and didn't shred them just put them in the compost pile. that still isn't ready.. I had lots of stink bugs and squash bugs Seemed more than normal. and you can see the white spots on the outside of the skin also. At his point I hope that it is the bugs and not a bacteria in the soil.
thanks so much charlene

    Bookmark   October 16, 2008 at 3:02PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


You're welcome. Well, based on what you said about growing organically, I'd guess it's probably the darned old stink bug family. I had a lot more this year, and earlier than usual too.

Shredding the leaves REALLY makes them break down faster which is why I take the time to do it. I put several inches of them on top of the beds to keep winter weeds from sprouting. Some years, I till them into the soil, and other years, I just transplant right into the bed, leaving them on top as a feeding mulch. If you don't have a leaf shredder, you can run over them with a lawn mower and chop them up...which is not too much trouble if your mower has a grass catcher that can 'catch' them for you. Or, you can put the leaves in a plastic/rubber trash can and shred them inside the can with a string trimmer. Whatever works!

I find it hard to imagine a soil bacteria could cause the same problem with several different veggies. I guess it will be interesting to hear what OSU has to say. This has been such an odd year with almost everyone (except me!) having record or near-record rainfall.

Please keep us posted on what you find out so we all can learn from your experience. (Then, next year, you can be the "expert" on white spots in veggies!)


    Bookmark   October 16, 2008 at 6:11PM
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