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Tomato blossom drop, usual suspects ruled out

Posted by megan_anne TX U.S. z8a (My Page) on
Wed, May 19, 10 at 11:16

So my 'Celebrity' and 'Supersweet 100' tom's are looking great. Beautiful foliage and lots of blossoms on both varieties. Because we have such cruddy soil and thick unmanageable caliche that goes several feet deep (had to literally rent a jackhammer in order to install a fence, before we gave up on that)-- the tom's are in huge pots. I've grown them this way for years with great success.

However, this year the blossoms are opening up, staying on the plant for several days, then are falling off at the abscission joint. The blossoms go through a wither, as if they had been pollinated, but then just drop. I opened a few dropped flowers and there is no sign that they even got pollinated. The ovarian "remnant" is small and "atrophied" for lack of a better term, like the flower was an old maid (my term for an unfertilized bloom).

Here's some more details:

We haven't had any excessively cool weather, nor have we had many days over 90... I think we've had one 90-degree day, and nights have been mild and cool but not chilly-- 60's for lows most nights, highs in the low to mid 80's on average with some days in the upper 80's. Rain has been lighter than usual, but not droughtish and I water only if the soil is dry at a depth of 3 to 4 inches.

Fertilizing-- I made sure to include a source of phosphorus at planting, and plenty of it. Calcium is abundant in our soil here (caliche is lime, a form of calcium carbonate) and I have plenty of good amended soil as I have used in the past.

Bugs and pests-- except for a few tiny young hornworms which I promptly addressed (the buggers were less than 1/4" long when I found them-- very young indeed), I have no bug or blight issues.

Environmental-- plenty of sun, about 8 hours a day with a bit of sun screening during the hottest part of the day. The sun screen still allows light through, but not as intensely blazing-hot as full-on sun. Plenty of air movement, too. I see the plants and flower trusses shimmying in the breeze, so the flowers do get vibrated, and I also give gentle love-pats once a day if it's calm out. Temps seem ideal for tomatoes, not too hot or too cool. The plants were transplants, and got planted the first week of April. Yes, it is a bit later than I usually set them out but we had almost 6" of snow on March 21 (an extreme rarity in Dallas) so I wanted to wait to be sure we were really done with winter before setting them in the dirt.

So, why would the blossoms drop despite "good conditions", sufficient (I think) phosphorus and calcium, ample air movement, being evenly moist but not over-wet, sufficient light, a lack of pests/disease and everything else SEEMING okay?

Oh-- my peppers are doing the same thing: big blossoms that just fall, but in that case the ovary stays on the plant but fails to develop and then also falls... but that's a Q for the pepper folks... I digress, but perhaps there's a common problem?

Thanks for your help.

-MA


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Tomato blossom drop, usual suspects ruled out

Just curious, are all of your blossoms failing or do you have some fruit set too? Though I haven't counted, I suspect on many varieties I've grown that 9 of 10 blossoms don't produce tomatoes, though on cherry types the success rate is definitely higher. I live in the Metroplex and have quite a bit of fruit set this year on most varieties and consider the weather this spring to be tomato friendly. Your process sounds very good too. If you have no fruit set, I'm at a total loss as to why, but wanted to clarify and wish you good luck.


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RE: Tomato blossom drop, usual suspects ruled out

nitrogen is going to be the key fert element. It can be too much or too little.

humidity can effect pollen shedding

wind can effect how the flowers will or wont shed pollen (they seem not to shed much at all during windy conditions)

are you pruning? heavy pruning can make flowers abort (or pruning out larger suckers vs smaller ones)

Is there a "yard" or street light that is close by at night? That can effect flowers.


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RE: Tomato blossom drop, usual suspects ruled out

Absolutely zero fruit set. Nada. And it's affecting both my tomatoes and my peppers (all 8 varieties). Yes, the weather has been ideal by TX standards for growing tomatoes-- not too hot or cool, no torrential rain... I'm stumped.

I've decided that if I have no fruit set by June 4 (2 months after potting-up), I'm yanking the worthless pieces of junk. I have better things to do than waste my time on nonproductive vegetables. (NOTE: Threats of plant violence and a few curse words mixed in with the fertilizer have sometimes resulted in increased garden production...)

Perhaps, no matter how well one fertilizes, how carefully we water, or lovingly aid the breezes, or ensure proper light-- the real thing that makes vegetables produce is just plain luck.

I guess I'm out of that and can't seem to find any in the stores near me (LOL!)...


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RE: Tomato blossom drop, usual suspects ruled out

mine have started showing signs of heat stress and its not that hot out yet!!! Probably the varieties tolerance or they have it too good and have become divas!!!!


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RE: Tomato blossom drop, response to mulio

Mulio: You asked--

"nitrogen is going to be the key fert element. It can be too much or too little.
humidity can effect pollen shedding"

A: Not too humid, really, and I'm using ferts that I've used for years with great success.

wind can effect how the flowers will or wont shed pollen (they seem not to shed much at all during windy conditions)

A: It's been no more or less windy than usual. Plus, I do (very) gently tap my pots to help that along.

are you pruning? heavy pruning can make flowers abort (or pruning out larger suckers vs smaller ones)

A: I haven't really needed to prune at all. When I do (rarely), I only take the smallest since everything else has buds/flowers, and these are determinates.

Is there a "yard" or street light that is close by at night? That can effect flowers.

A: Yes, my jerk-of-a-neighbor has a motion activated security light that seems to malfunction. It goes off and on all night long for no reason, plus they have a dog that goes in and out via a dog door to bark at her own shadow, and the light also comes on when she goes out. I have mentioned the malfunction (and the barking) to the neighbor, to no avail. Maybe that light is doing something to stop the flowers from setting?

If that's the case-- what can I do to help the plants to set fruit? I can't move the pots now-- too heavy. If I put up a screen to block the security light, then I'd cut off sunlight. Ideas?


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RE: Tomato blossom drop, usual suspects ruled out

You said no pests but I wanted to share with you that thrips are known to cause blossom drop, sometimes severe, and they are only about 1/16th of an inch long so can be overlooked.

As I recall I think they can do the same with pepper blossoms but I didn't take the time to check that out and give you a link.

Below I've linked to info from Alabama, which is pretty darn close to TX as I see it. Just scroll down until you come to the title Thrips.

And of course thrip damage is not just found in the south.

Carolyn

Here is a link that might be useful: Blossom Drop and Thrips


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RE: Tomato blossom drop, usual suspects ruled out

I guess there are a few here that can't read. I had this happen 2 years ago and the problem was me. I am a smoker and I was handling the plants w/o washing my hands first. While they never got the full blown mosaic virus they did drop blooms at the abscission joint. Does anyone that has handled your plants smoke, chew, dip tobacco or work at a tobacco store?


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RE: Tomato blossom drop, usual suspects ruled out

taz, the symptoms of TMV don't include blossom drop.

TMV as spread by insects hasn't been a problem in the US for at least 20 years or so, ever since the commercial tobacco being grown is TMV tolerant; Turkish tobacco is still suspect. There have been a few minor outbreaks but the greatest incidence of TMV in the US now is in commercial greenhouses and is spread by mechanical means and there's not much of that anymore either.

it' easy to breed into hybrids the TMV gene for tolerance and so they do it but it's become rather meaningless.

CMV is much more common than TMV, has about the same specific symptoms but it doesn't cause blossom drop either.

In your area Curly Top Virus is very common and few fruits are set if there's a heavy transmission from beet leafhoppers, so that's another possibility to consider.

Carolyn


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RE: Tomato blossom drop, usual suspects ruled out

As I've already said some here just can't read.
Carolyn I didn't say it was TMV. I handled the blooms in particular without washing my hands after smoking and the blooms dropped within a couple days. I've remembered to wash my hands before handling my tomatoes and haven't had that problem happen since. Would you like me to do it again just to prove the point? I don't think I will.


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RE: Tomato blossom drop, usual suspects ruled out

While they never got the full blown mosaic virus

****

Taz, I thought I was reading OK when I saw you post the above comment which meant to me that they did have TMV but just didn't show all the symptoms as you implied. And then you went on to ask if others smoked or chewed or dipped tobacoo, etc.,

Carolyn


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RE: Tomato blossom drop, usual suspects ruled out

Don't worry about Taz... he always likes to stir the pot. He has been very rude in 90% of the forums I've seen him post on here. Seems to me that Taz needed a cigarette while posting... go relax man.

Best suggestions come from just sticking it out and see what happens....


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RE: Tomato blossom drop, usual suspects ruled out

Carolyn can it not be tobacco or nicotine related without being TMV? Are you a specialist in the field?

hfg rude and honest are not the same thing. I'm told quite often I'm brutally honest. As for relaxing, that's hard to do with the muscle spasms I've got.


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RE: Tomato blossom drop, usual suspects ruled out

Carolyn can it not be tobacco or nicotine related without being TMV? Are you a specialist in the field?

*****

Taz, that's a double negative but if you're asking if tobacco products can be the cause of disease with tomatoes without TMV possibly appearing,then the answer is no, I know of no documented disease caused just by smoking products.

TMV was originally insected transmitted until TMV tolerant tobacco was grown commercially in the US when now it's different and mechanical transmission is what happens in most cases and especially in commercial greenhouses.

I hope one of those two answers is appropriate to your question.

Am I a specialist?

You can read some of my background at my page.

Do I have a Ph.D in plant infectious diseases, no I don't.

But I was raised on a farm where we had acres of tomatoes, will be 71 in June, have grown about 2500 hundred varieties myself, have a good understanind of infectious diseases in humans, which I taught, as well as vegetables and fruits, worked with the Cornell Coop Ext in two different counties, have done lots of teaching of Master Gardeners as well as field days re diseases, have been posting online about tomato infectious diseases since 1989 and have done clinics on IDing tomato diseases here and there. And have wrote a book about Heirloom Tomatoes, after being asked to do so.

I've been retired since 1999 , from teaching, b'c of mobility problems, severed four quads in 2004, have two new hips and still have to use a walker, and still continue to grow stuff in much less numbers, all my gardening done by someone else.

And being retired I have the time to read/post at four online message sites that I chose and as a Moderator at two of them.

So it's up to you to decide if I have a good undertanding of tomato diseases and diagnosis of many of them. No one person, even a tomato pathologist, knows it all, but I usually have enough information to help folks looking for answers online to the best of my ability and I don't know ALL the answers either.

Carolyn, being also honest but not rude as you posted above.And who also finds this site is sometimes contentious , as do many others, which is why in 2006 many of us moved to a different site but I usually drop in here from time to time anyway as do a few others who also moved elsewhere.


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RE: Tomato blossom drop, usual suspects ruled out

Megan - meanwhile back to your question. ;) Carolyn mentioned thrips above and they are a real possibility. Have you have the chance to check into that?

Dave


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RE: Tomato blossom drop, usual suspects ruled out


Taz, that's a double negative but if you're asking if tobacco products can be the cause of disease with tomatoes without TMV possibly appearing,then the answer is no, I know of no documented disease caused just by smoking products.

I thought this thread was about blossom drop. Are you saying because the blossoms drop the plant is diseased? Are you also saying that nicotine can't be toxic to tomato plants? I just related the two because of my experience with not washing my hands after smoking and handling the blooms and soon after they fell off. It could have been coincidence. I am going to do it again just to see what happens. I have a few extra plants that are blooming. I'll let you know within a couple days.


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RE: Tomato blossom drop, usual suspects ruled out

I thought this thread was about blossom drop. Are you saying because the blossoms drop the plant is diseased? Are you also saying that nicotine can't be toxic to tomato plants? I just related the two because of my experience with not washing my hands after smoking and handling the blooms and soon after they fell off. It could have been coincidence. I am going to do it again just to see what happens. I have a few extra plants that are blooming. I'll let you know within a couple days.

****

The thread is about blossom drop and you're the one who suggested that TMV could be a cause of it and I said it couldn't.

No, I'm not saying b'c a plant has blossom drop the plant is diseased. The original poster went over the many reasons why blossoms drop, which are high sustained heat, high prolonged humidity and normal blossom drop that is just part of the way the plant ensures that there aren't too many blossoms to let go on to set fruits, which is normal.

And she said that none of those could be the cause of the blossom drop she was seeing, so I suggester thrip damage.

And yes, I'm saying that just nicotine/smoking products can not be toxic to tomato plants by themselves. If you do a search on Google you'll find that some folks still recommend making up a nictine liquid prep to spray on tomato plants b'c some feel that it's a good insecticide and it doesn't affect the plant itself at all.

Carolyn


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RE: Tomato blossom drop, usual suspects ruled out

Megan_Ann... I experienced the same thing last spring. We had very erratic weather through the early growing season, but once the weather stabilized the blossoms ceased to drop and I had great fruit throughout the rest of the summer. Sometimes, it's just a waiting game. Best of luck.
Don
BTW everyone... gardening is a thing of joy. Let's not get all stressed out over each others' words. We're all going to have great gardens this summer and that's a thing to celebrate. ;)


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RE: Tomato blossom drop, usual suspects ruled out

*sigh* No, no one smokes/uses tobacco. Besides, 'Celebrity' is supposed to be TMV "resistant" anyway.

But I did go out and I sprinkled a little "salt" around. Salt?

Yes-- I went out and I told those plants, "All right you little $^*&^$, you better put out some $%^&* peppers and tomatoes or I'll yank you out by your #$%^& roots and throw you in the #$%^& compost heap! Do you #$%^& understand me?"

It worked. I found a dozen baby jalapeos this afternoon, and just about as many positively-pollinated 'Celebrity' flowers (very thick pedicels!).

Salt... the kind that comes from my mouth, not a little round box. ;)


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RE: Tomato blossom drop, usual suspects ruled out

Way to go Megan! When all else fails - cuss 'em out. Bet you could hear their knees knocking! :)

Dave


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RE: Tomato blossom drop, usual suspects ruled out

Well... hehe, it looks more promising now than it did earlier. Still, I won't count my 'maters until they're on my dinner plate.

Typically, though, I get two "flushes" from the Celebs in a season. I get a spring/early summer crop, then another in the fall once it cools back down. I also protect my plants if there are greenies on the vines that aren't mature-green enough for indoor ripening. The cherries, though, just keep going... and going... and going...


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RE: Tomato blossom drop, usual suspects ruled out


The thread is about blossom drop and you're the one who suggested that TMV could be a cause of it and I said it couldn't.

I never suggested TMV could be the cause. I'll stick with some people just can't read.


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RE: Tomato blossom drop, usual suspects ruled out

UPDATE: I went out over the weekend with a magnifier and carefully examined my plants. Lo and behold, I did find a light thrips "infection". Nothing really overwhelming, but there were a few of the hateful little buggars which may have been just enough to cause annoying blossom losses without otherwise affecting the rest of the plant (Yup Carolyn-- these eyes aren't as sharp as they were prior to age... what I am now, hehe).

So the plants (and the peppers) got a treatment with spinosad and I also collected some minute pirate beetles to keep the thrips from getting any wise ideas, and to reinforce the "spinosad lesson"-- this garden is NOT open for buggy mischief!.

Today's Wednesday, and I'm getting pretty little trusses of baby cherry tomatoes and a fair number of marble-sized baby green 'Celebrity' 'mater-lettes. Lots of fertilized blooms now, too. And the peppers are setting babies now, as well.

INVALUABLE GARDEN TOOL: A magnifying glass

Lesson learned! This is a good thing. :)

Now, onto the whiteflies which are trying to move in... pass the neem, please!


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