Being one of the world's most popular fruits, tomatoes are planted far and wide. Once thought poisonous, these sun-loving plants grace dinner tables all over the world. Though they are typically easy to care for, tomatoes do have potential issues that can cause their fruits and blossoms to drop prematurely. Even if the diseases are not flower-specific if allowed to go unchecked, the blossoms will eventually suffer. Knowing the signs of possible tomato disease can help bring in bigger crops of delicious fruits.
Anthracnose, caused by the fungus Colletotrichum coccodes, is identified by small, indented circular areas on the skin of fruit. The center of these areas begins to darken as the fungus progresses. These rotting wounds offer an entryway for other fungi and diseases to attack. Prevention is the best treatment for this fungus. Allowing good air flow, watering from the base of plants, choosing healthy plants and crop rotation will help in preventing this affliction. Fungicides are also used to treat the problem.
Blossom End Rot
Blossom end rot is caused by a calcium deficiency and improper watering techniques. Symptoms of this affliction are small ½ to 1-inch brown sunken spots on the tomato fruit. Blossom end rot looks aesthetically displeasing but does not kill plants; the broken areas of flesh are an entryway for harmful diseases. This disorder is treated by adding calcium to the soil, adding more mulch and providing adequate and proper watering techniques. Less nitrogen may be required as well. Affected fruits should be removed to promote proper future fruiting.
Early blight, caused by the fungus Alternaria solani, normally attacks the foliage of tomato plants, it can however, infect the stem end of the fruits. This type of blight is identified by loss of foliage, circular black and brown spots on leaves and sunken darkened spots on fruit. Prevention and control is the same as for anthracnose.
Other Tomato Plant Afflictions
Lack of pollination will cause the blossoms of tomato plants to fall off. This is a natural occurrence and is not caused by a disease or virus. The same is true for heavy rain and high winds. Caterpillars, aphids and whiteflies may cause problems with tomatoes. Aphids can cause disease outbreaks because they pierce the stems and leaves of plants while feeding. This provides an entryway for various "tomato bad guys" to enter. Heavy infestations of pests will cause blossoms to fall off and the plants themselves to take on an unhealthy appearance that could look like a disease. Treatment for these pests involves handpicking, chemical control as well as biological control methods. Lack of light too will harm plants chances of blooming and successfully setting fruit.