What do you know about boron deficiency?

anney(Georgia 8)May 20, 2009

I'm not going to ask for a sure diagnosis, but one of my Cuostralees is definitely ailing. So I'm just asking about this one possibility, a boron deficiency.

It started with the leaves on the upper part of the plant developing purple spots that eventually covered almost the entire leaf, and the top of the plant just stopped growing. Now the purple is becoming brown and dessicated, even though the older leaves on the lower part of the plant are large and healthy.

It's right beside another Cuostralee that's growing like mad. It's very confusing. If the healthy Cuostralee doesn't develop the same symptoms, and it absolutely hasn't so far, I don't see how it could be a boron deficiency since they're so close together. And absolutely no herbicides have been used around the plants or on the property at all, so it isn't that either.

I read that heavy rains can cause a nutrient imbalance resulting in a boron deficiency, and a boron deficiency symptom is a "flat-topped" plant and purple or yellow leaves that dessicate. Since we've certainly had a lot of rain like most places in the East, I wonder if that's what it is.

I can't find any other problem description of tomato leaves that has symptoms similar to what's on this plant. And I've never been able to identify plant problems very well anyway, even with the clearest descriptions.

Does anyone know of any other plant condition that has these symptoms? Small purple leaves on the top becoming dessicated and stunted growth?

While I'm sure it won't help much, here's a picture of the two plants. The affected one is the short paler green growth to the right of the taller greener tomato plant behind it.

Just yesterday I took a sucker from the other Cuostralee to root because it sure looks like I'm going to have to replace that plant.

Any ideas to keep me from going nuts trying to identify this problem?

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anney, Below is the updated link to the aggie problem solver.
Click on Leaf then just match the photos to your leaf.

Here is a link that might be useful: TX Aggie- tomato problem solver

    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 1:32PM
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Crush 2 Asprins and Mix 1/4 teaspoon of 20 Mule Team Borax to 1 Gallon of Water and drench soil surrounding plant.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 1:53PM
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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

Boron deficiency is very uncommon.

Call your county's Extension Service office to ask if it's a problem in your region.

Beyond that, when I searched for images of boron deficiency on tomatoes *nothing* matches, or even comes close to your image.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 2:19PM
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daylilyfanatic4(Zone 6 SE NY)

Here's a simple way to tell if you have a boron deffincancy. Plant some broccoli in that spot this fall.if you have holes in the middle of any of the plants when you cut the head you don't have enough boron. you could just fertilize with something that has boron in it. However don't over do it to much boron is very hard to correct.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 2:56PM
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jessicavanderhoff(7 Md)

Wow, that is so odd! The discrepancy there is huge. I had the same sort of weird thing happen in my garden last summer-- one plant randomly just turned brown and died. I do think most micro-nutrient deficiencies are imaginary. In the end, I can usually narrow it down to something much more obvious (It got eaten by a bug, I put a plastic bag under the mulch and it didn't get any water all summer, I sprayed it with insecticide meant for humans, it drowned because I didn't put any holes in the container). You may be a less dumb gardener than me, but either way, it seems like stuff like that is so hard to diagnose for sure that you're mostly shooting in the dark. Maybe dig it up and see if anything weird is going on under it? What's to the right of the frame there, on the other side of the stunted plant-- anything of interest?

    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 4:21PM
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anney(Georgia 8)


There are more tomatoes on either side of the stunted plant, though planted about 3 feet away.

I've been searching the internet off and on all day, and the only other thing that describes some of it is "tomato curly top viroid", whatever THAT is. But I must admit that none of these rather esoteric IDs make me any more sure than not knowing a THING!

Anyway, I'm going to remove the plant tomorrow and replant a Rutgers there. And yes, I'll check the roots, too. I don't think it's nematodes in this clay soil, but who knows? I have six of the Rutgers I was planning to plant later in another spot. I'll plant the new Cuostralee with the five remaining Rutgers in the new spot.

I really wonder how many of us have plants languish or die and despite all our research, we cannot determine why. This is the first time in all my years of gardening that I've had a set-out tomato plant fail. It's really frustrating.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 4:43PM
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Hi anney,
Picture does not suggest Boron (B) deficiency.
B problems appear in the growing points of stem/flower/fruit; as regards the young leaves think distortion & vein chlorosis. (High pH, a lot of Ca & even sparse N can impinge B uptake.)
Consider your fertilizer used as possibly being a variable for that one plant's roots & you may have gotten a nutrient uptake failure.
When uproot it & see stunted rootlets the chance is you used a urea N fertilizer that messed up the plant's pH, Potassium (K) & etc., etc. (See 20th May post "Urea Anyone" on Container forum.)
It may be of further interest that applying excessive B, say to erroneously remedy a suspected deficiency, can be toxic to the plant; trace minerals are quirky.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2009 at 12:22AM
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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

Not "tomato curly top viroid." Not nematodes either.

Is the problem spreading"? If so, you may want to remove the plant. If not, why remove it?

As was said, the "problem" -- if that's what is is -- is more likely to be something common or a garden glitch rather some rare, and/or obscure, disease/disorder.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2009 at 1:15AM
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anney(Georgia 8)


No, the problem doesn't appear to be spreading. It's just that one plant that was the same size when planted as the one behind it. But it's pretty obvious that plant isn't growing nor is it flowering, though the others are. It doesn't look like it will be productive, and I've been waiting for a week to see if it recovers and grows again. Instead, it's languished more and more. It's time for surgery!


Yes, I agree with you. If it isn't a disease, it must be some kind of nutrient problem that affected it and none of the other plants closeby. I didn't lime the bed this year or last year, and that's where Southern peas, a legume, grew. Tomatoes haven't been grown in that bed previously.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2009 at 5:30AM
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