Posts Tagged ‘physiological disorders’

Boron Deficiencies in Cole Crops

Friday, September 7th, 2012

Gordon Johnson, Extension Vegetable & Fruit Specialist;

Long time growers of cole crops know that the micronutrient boron is critical for production. However, newer growers may be unaware of these requirements. Boron is also subject to leaching with rainfall, particularly in our sandy soils, so available soil boron declines over time.

Cole crops have a moderate to high boron requirement. Symptoms of boron deficiency vary with crop type. Most boron deficient cole crops develop cracked and corky stems, petioles and midribs. The stems of broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower can be hollow and are sometimes discolored. Cauliflower curds become brown and leaves may roll and curl, while cabbage heads may be small and yellow. Of all the cole crops, cauliflower is the most sensitive to boron deficiencies.

It is recommended in broccoli and kale to apply 1.5-3 pounds of boron (B) per acre in mixed fertilizer prior to planting. In Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collards and cauliflower, boron and molybdenum are recommended. Apply 1.5-3 pounds of boron (B) per acre and 0.2 pound molybdenum (Mo) applied as 0.5 pound sodium molybdate per acre with broadcast fertilizer.

Boron may also be applied as a foliar treatment to cole crops if soil applications were not made. The recommended rate is 0.2-0.3 lb/acre of actual boron (1.0 to 1.5 lbs of Solubor 20.5%) in sufficient water (30 or more gallons) for coverage. Apply foliar boron prior to heading of cole crops.

Other fall crops such as beets, radishes, and turnips are also susceptible to boron deficiencies in sandy soils with limited boron fertilizer additions.

Stip Disorder in Peppers

Friday, September 7th, 2012

Gordon Johnson, Extension Vegetable & Fruit Specialist;

As fall approaches and late pepper crops mature, pepper stip disorder can be a problem in bell, pimento, and elongated peppers (chilies, bananas, sweet frying types) causing them to be unmarketable. It is particularly a problem on peppers taken to ripe stage such as red bells, but can also be an issue on green immature fruit. Pepper stip, also called color spotting or black spotting, is a physiological disorder of pepper fruit. It causes gray, brown, black, or green spots that are slightly sunken and are ¼ inch or smaller in diameter. Spots may be single or in groups and can resemble damage from stink bugs. Microscopic examination of affected areas shows dead collapsed cells with no evidence of cell puncture or insect damage. It is primarily a fall disorder and occurs most often when temperatures drop into the 40s and 30s. It can also occur after peppers are moved into cold storage. This is similar to what is seen with blossom end rot, only the affected areas are isolated and can occur throughout the fruit, not just on the ends.

The exact cause of stip is not known; however, it is thought to be a nutrient imbalance involving lower calcium (Ca) in fruit and high levels of nitrogen (N) and potassium (K). Research has shown that stip was most common in fields with low soil calcium or low pH and in fields with very high N and K fertilization.

Pepper varieties vary considerably in their susceptibility to stip. Research has shown that resistant cultivars consistently had lower N and K, and higher Ca concentrations than susceptible cultivars in leaf or fruit tissue samples. In 2011 red bell pepper variety trials conducted in New Jersey by Rutgers University, it was found that Camelot, Paladin, Classic, Patriot and Vanguard all were susceptible to stip. Additional trials are underway this fall.

In late summer and fall, there is reduced transpiration, and Ca movement in the fruit can be reduced. Excess N can cause rapid growth and extra foliage further limiting fruit transpiration and excess K can compete with Ca for plant uptake and cation exchange in the fruit.

Managing stip starts with using resistant varieties for fall production. Maintain high soil calcium levels and reduce nitrogen and potassium in fall production. Additional calcium through the drip system may help reduce stip. Foliar calcium applications have shown little or no effect on reducing stip.


Hot Year Means More Blossom End Rot

Friday, July 20th, 2012

Gordon Johnson, Extension Vegetable & Fruit Specialist;

Blossom end rot (BER) is showing up again this year in peppers and tomatoes. BER is a disorder where developing fruits do not have enough calcium for cell walls, cells do not form properly, and the fruit tissue at the blossom end collapses, turning dark in color. Calcium moves through cation exchange with water movement in the fruit, so the end of the fruit will be the last to accumulate calcium. Larger fruits and longer fruits are most susceptible. With fruits, the rapid cell division phase occurs early in the development of the fruit and if calcium accumulation in the fruit is inadequate during this period, BER may occur. While it may not be noticed until the fruit expands, the deficiency has already occurred and cells have already been negatively affected. We most commonly see signs of blossom end rot on fruits many days after the calcium deficiency has occurred.

Understanding blossom end rot also requires an understanding of how calcium moves from the soil into and through the plant. Calcium moves from the soil exchange sites into soil water and to plant roots by diffusion and mass flow. At plant roots, the calcium moves into the xylem (water conducting vessels), mostly from the area right behind root tips. In the xylem, calcium moves with the transpirational flow, the movement of water from roots, up the xylem, and out the leave through stomata. Calcium is taken up by the plant as a divalent cation, which means it has a charge of +2. It is attracted to negatively charged areas on the wall of the xylem, and for calcium to move, it must be exchanged off the xylem wall by other positively charged cations such as magnesium (Mg++), potassium (K+), ammonium (NH4+), or additional calcium cations (Ca++). This cation exchange of calcium in the xylem requires continuous movement of water into and up through the plant. It also requires a continuous supply of calcium from the soil.

In general, most soils have sufficient calcium to support proper plant growth. While proper liming will insure there is adequate calcium, it is not the lack of calcium in the soil that causes blossom end rot in most cases. It is the inadequate movement of calcium into plants that is the common culprit. Anything that impacts root activity or effectiveness will limit calcium uptake. This would include dry soils, saturated soils (low oxygen limits root function), compaction, root pathogens, or root insect damage. In hot weather on black plastic mulch, roots can also be affected by high bed temperatures. Low pH can also be a contributing factor. Calcium availability decreases as pH drops, and below a pH of 5.2 free aluminum is released, directly interfering with calcium uptake. Again, proper liming will insure that this does not occur. Applying additional calcium as a soil amendment, above what is needed by normal liming, will not reduce blossom end rot.

In the plant, there is a “competition” for calcium by various plant parts that require calcium such as newly forming leaves and newly forming fruits. Those areas that transpire the most will receive more calcium. In general, fruits have much lower transpiration than leaves. In hot weather, transpiration increases through the leaves and fruits receive lower amounts of calcium. High humidity will reduce calcium movement into the fruit even more. Tissue tests will often show adequate levels of calcium in leaf samples; however, fruits may not be receiving adequate calcium. In addition, in hot weather, there is an increased risk of interruptions in water uptake, evidenced by plant wilting, when transpirational demand exceeds water uptake. When plants wilt, calcium uptake will be severely restricted. Therefore, excess heat and interruptions in the supply of water (inadequate irrigation and/or rainfall) will have a large impact on the potential for blossom end rot to occur. Proper irrigation is therefore critical to manage blossom end rot.

As a positive cation, there is “competition” for uptake of calcium with other positive cations. Therefore, if potassium, ammonium, or magnesium levels are too high in relation to calcium, they can reduce calcium uptake. To manage this, do not over-fertilize with potassium or magnesium and replace ammonium or urea sources of nitrogen with nitrate sources.

Applying additional soluble calcium through irrigation, especially drip systems, can reduce blossom end rot to some degree if applied prior to and through heat events and if irrigation is applied evenly in adequate amounts. Foliar applications are much less effective because fruits do not absorb much calcium, especially once a waxy layer has developed, and calcium will not move from leaves into the fruit (there is little or no phloem transport).

In conclusion, the keys to controlling blossom end rot are making sure roots are actively growing and root systems are not compromised, soil pH is in the proper range, and irrigation is supplied in an even manner so that calcium uptake is not interrupted. Supplemental calcium fertilization will only marginally reduce blossom end rot if water is not managed properly.

Another calcium disorder that is found in peppers is called “stip”. These spots on peppers occur later in the year, commonly in the late summer or fall, during cool, humid conditions. Under these conditions, calcium movement into the fruit is uneven, leading to localized collapse of cells, causing the spotting. Again, making sure adequate calcium is moving in the plant is critical to control stip.

Physiological Leaf Cupping and Rolling in Vegetables

Friday, July 1st, 2011

Gordon Johnson, Extension Vegetable & Fruit Specialist;

Leaf cupping and rolling in vegetables can be caused by virus diseases, aphid infestations, herbicides and growth regulators. However, late spring and early summer is the time of the year that we often see leaf cupping and rolling disorders appear in vegetable crops that are not related to pests or chemicals. This can be seen in tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, watermelons, beans, and other crops. This is a physiological disorder that may have many contributing factors.

In tomatoes, leaf roll starts at the margins which turn up, then roll inward, most commonly on the lower leaves. Upward cupping is also found commonly in watermelons and potatoes. Beans, peppers, and other vegetables may cup downwards. Leaves may stay in this rolled or cupped state for a short period of time and then return to normal, or they may remain permanently rolled or cupped. Rolled leaves may become thicker but are otherwise normal. Physiological leaf roll or cupping is often variety dependent with some varieties being more susceptible than others.

There are several possible causal factors for physiological leaf roll or cupping. Water relations are suspected in many cases where there has been a reduction in water uptake or increased water demand placed on the plant. The plant responds by rolling the leaves which reduces the surface area exposed to high radiation. High temperatures, excessive pruning, cultivation, and vine moving activities may also trigger leaf rolling. High nitrogen fertility programs followed by moisture stress may also trigger this type of leaf roll. Inadequate calcium moving to leaf margins may also cause a different type of leaf cupping. This is also related to interrupted water movement.

In most cases, yields are not affected by physiological leaf rolling or cupping. However, growers may choose to select varieties that are less susceptible to this disorder.


Fasciation in Vegetables and Fruits

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Gordon Johnson, Extension Vegetable & Fruit Specialist;

In recent visits to watermelon fields in Delaware for pollination and fruit set surveys, we found a high number of pollenizer plants in one field that had one or more fasciated stems.

Fasciated stems are ones that are flattened and look like several stems have been fused together. They may be fan shaped in appearance. We also commonly see fasciation in strawberry fruits which develop a “cockscomb” appearance. Fasciation occurs when a growing point changes from a round dome of cells into a crescent shape. Subsequent growth produces a flat stem, flower, or fruit. In some cases fasciation is the result of several embryonic growing points fusing together, with the same flattened or fan-like appearance.

Although the causes of fasciation are not well understood, it is most likely because of a hormonal imbalance. Use of herbicides that are hormone analogs (such as those in the growth regulator or 2,4-D family) can often cause fasciation.

Fasciation can also be due to a random genetic mutation. In some cases, these mutations have been taken advantage of to produce new plants (many ornamentals) that then are propagated vegetatively to keep the fasciated appearance.

Fasciation can also be induced by one or more environmental factors, most commonly cold damage in the spring. Fasciation may also be induced by physical damage to the growing point.

Plant pests may also cause fasciation. Pathogens (bacteria, fungi, virus), insects, and mites, and insects may damage growing points or cause plants to produce excess hormones that will result in fascinated plants.

Go to the Purdue Plant and Pest Diagnostic Laboratory site for a picture of a fascinated sweet potato stem:


Transplant Disorders

Friday, April 29th, 2011

Gordon Johnson, Extension Vegetable & Fruit Specialist;

This is the time of the year when county agents are called to look at disorders in transplants being grown in greenhouses and when samples routinely come into our offices for diagnosis.

There are many diseases of vegetable transplants that can start in the greenhouse – fungal, bacterial, and viral. Diseases should be considered first when looking at transplants. Insects such as thrips, aphids, and whiteflies also can be a problem in greenhouses and should also be considered as causes of injury. They can cause direct damage and can be vectors of virus diseases.

However, many vegetable transplant disorders are not cause by pests. Some of the most common are:

Excessive Stretch and Leggy Plants
This is most commonly due to too high of temperature differential in growing houses (wide differences between day and night temperatures), excessive fertilization (especially with ammonium N fertilizers), and excessive watering.

Irregular Growth
This can have many causes including differences in seeding depth, differences in tray filling, differences in watering, differences in location in the greenhouse, irregular heating in the greenhouse (hot and cold spots), and differences in media to name a few.

Salt Injury
Plant desiccation and injury due to high salts occurs commonly when fertilizer rates are too high or when dumping occurs from slow release fertilizers at high temperatures.

Leaf Scorching
his can be due to salt injury also, but can occur when plants that are overcrowded are then spaced and exposed to full light or when very tender plants are put out to harden off in windy conditions.

Nutrient Deficiencies
Iron deficiencies are common if media pH rises above 6.3. Calcium and magnesium deficiencies are common if media pH drops below 5.2. Nitrogen deficiencies from under-fertilization are also common and also where initial nutrient charge in the media runs out.

Poor plant growth or stunting most commonly is due to lack of nutrients in the media (media is missing initial nutrient charge). It also can be due to excessively cold greenhouse temperatures.

Ethylene Injury
Crops grown in greenhouses with propane or gas-fired unit heaters that are malfunctioning can be susceptible to ethylene injury. Ethylene (C2H4) is an odorless, colorless gas that acts as a plant hormone. Symptoms range from misshapen leaves and flowers, thickened stems, stunted growth, flower or leaf abortion to stem curling and wilting.



Cole Crop Disorders

Friday, August 27th, 2010

Gordon Johnson, Extension Vegetable & Fruit Specialist;

Cole crops, including cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, collards, kale, and kohlrabi are important fall crops in the region. The following are some common disorders that affect these crops and their causes.

Tipburn of Cauliflower, Cabbage, and Brussels Sprouts
This problem can cause severe economic losses. Tipburn is a breakdown of plant tissue inside the head of cabbage, individual sprouts in Brussels sprouts, and on the inner wrapper leaves of cauliflower. It is a physiological disorder which is associated with an inadequate supply of calcium in the affected leaves, causing a collapse of the tissue and death of the cells. Calcium deficiency may occur where the soil calcium is low or where there is an imbalance of nutrients in the soil along with certain weather conditions. (High humidity, low soil moisture, high potash and high nitrogen aggravate calcium availability). Secondary rot caused by bacteria can follow tipburn and heads of cauliflower can be severely affected. Some cabbage and cauliflower cultivars are relatively free of tipburn problems.

Boron Deficiencies
Cole crops have a high boron requirement. Symptoms of boron deficiency vary with the cole crop. Cabbage heads may simply be small and yellow. Most cole crops develop cracked and corky stems, petioles and midribs. The stems of broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower can be hollow and are sometimes discolored. Cauliflower curds become brown and leaves may roll and curl.

Hollow Stem in Broccoli and Cauliflower Not Caused by Boron Deficiency
This condition starts with gaps that develop in the tissues. These gradually enlarge to create a hollow stem. Ordinarily, there is no discoloration of the surface of these openings at harvest but both discoloration and tissue breakdown may develop soon after harvest. Some cultivars of hybrid cauliflower and broccoli may have openings from the stem into the head. Both plant spacing and the rate of nitrogen affect the incidence of hollow stem. Hollow stem increases with wider spacings and as the rate of nitrogen increases. The incidence of hollow stem can be greatly reduced by increasing the plant population.

Cabbage Splitting
Cabbage splitting is mainly a problem with early cabbage. A problem can develop when moisture stress is followed by heavy rain. The rapid growth rate associated with rain, high temperatures and high fertility cause the splitting. Proper irrigation may help prevent splitting and there are significant differences between cultivars in their susceptibility to this problem. Splitting may also be partially avoided by deep cultivation to break some of the plant roots.

Cauliflower and Broccoli Buttoning
Buttoning is the premature formation of a head and because the head forms early in the plant’s life, the leaves are not large enough to nourish the curd to a marketable size. Buttoning may occur shortly after planting in the field, when normal plants of the same age should be growing vegetatively. Losses are usually most severe when transplants have gone past the juvenile stage before setting in the field. Stress factors such as low soil nitrogen, low soil moisture, disease, insects, or micronutrient deficiencies can also cause this problem. Some cultivars, particularly early ones, are more susceptible to buttoning than others.

Lack of Heads in Broccoli and Cauliflower
During periods of extremely warm weather (days over 86°F and nights 77°F) broccoli and cauliflower can remain vegetative (does not head) since they do not receive enough cold for head formation. This can cause a problem in scheduling the marketing of even volumes of crop.

Cauliflower Blanching and Off Colors
The market demands cauliflower which is pure white or pale cream in color. Heads exposed to sunlight develop a yellow and/or red to purple pigment. Certain varieties such as Snow Crown are more susceptible to purple off-colors, especially in hot weather. Self-blanching varieties have been developed to reduce problems with curd yellowing. For open headed varieties, the usual method to exclude light is to tie the outer leaves when the curd is 8 cm in diameter. Leaves may also be broken over the curd to prevent yellowing. In hot weather blanching may take 3 to 4 days, but in cool weather, 8 to 12 days or more may be required. Cauliflower fields scheduled to mature in cool weather (September and October) that are well supplied with water and planted with “self-blanching” cultivars will not need tieing. Newer orange cauliflower and green broccoflower varieties are being planted. They are less susceptible to off-colors but still can develop purpling under warm conditions.

Cauliflower Ricing
“Riciness” and “fuzziness” in heads is caused by high temperatures, exposure to direct sun, too rapid growth after the head is formed, high humidity, or high nitrogen. “Ricing” is where the flower buds develop, elongate and separate, making the curd unmarketable.

Development of Curd Bracts in Cauliflower
Curd bracts or small green leaves between the segments of the curd in cauliflower is caused by too high of temperature or drought. High temperatures cause a reversion to vegetative growth with production of bracts on the head. In a marketable cauliflower head, the individual flower buds are undeveloped and undifferentiated.

Loose Heads in Cauliflower and Premature Flowering in Broccoli
Loosely formed curds in cauliflower can be due to any stress that slows growth making them small or open. Fluctuating temperatures and moisture will also cause less compact growth. In contrast, excess vegetative growth caused by excessive nitrogen can also cause loose heads in cauliflower and broccoli. Premature flowering and open heads in broccoli can be brought on by high temperatures.

Edema on Cole Crop Leaves
Edema is water blistering on cole crop leaves. The most common cause of edema is the presence of abundant, warm soil water and a cool, moist atmosphere. Under these conditions the roots absorb water at a rate faster than is lost through transpiration. Excess water accumulates in the leaf, some parenchyma cells enlarge and block the stomatal openings through which water vapor is normally released from the plant; thereby contributing to further water retention in the leaf. If this condition persists, the enlarged cells divide, differentiate a cork cambium, and develop elongate cork cells externally to form a periderm. The rupture of the epidermis by the enlarged inner cells and the periderm account for the raised, crusty appearance of older edema spots.

Black Petiole
Black petiole or black midrib is an internal disorder of cabbage that has been occasionally noted in recent years. As heads approach maturity, the back side of the internal leaf petioles or midribs turn dark gray or black at or near the point where the midrib attaches to the core. The affected area may be quite limited or may extend for 2 or 3 inches along the midrib. It is believed that this disorder is associated with a potassium (K)-phosphorus (P) imbalance and results when the K level in the soil is low and the P concentration high. High rates of nitrogen may contribute to the problem. Probably, as in the case with tipburn, black petiole is a complex physiological disorder in which environmental conditions play an important role in symptom expression. Variety evaluation trials have shown that there are differences in degree of susceptibility between varieties.

Floret (Bead) Yellowing in Broccoli
The florets are the most perishable part of the broccoli head; yellowing may be due to overmaturity at harvest, high storage temperatures after harvest, and/or exposure to ethylene. Any development of yellow beads ends commercial marketability. Bead yellowing due to senescence should not be confused with the yellow to light-green color of areas of florets not exposed to light during growth, sometimes called “marginal yellowing”.

Brown Floret (Bead) in Broccoli
This is a disorder in which areas of florets do not develop correctly, die and lead to brown discolored areas. This is thought to be caused by plant nutritional imbalances but also may be due to feeding damage on florets from insects such as harlequin bugs.

Blossom End Rot in Tomatoes

Friday, June 25th, 2010

Jerry Brust, IPM Vegetable Specialist, University of Maryland;

This is just a quick reminder that we are in very dry conditions right now and tomato plants are putting on large fruit at the same time they are flowering profusely. Everyone knows that blossom end rot is caused by too little calcium in the fruit while it is developing, usually from the time of flowering until it is the size of a quarter. Most of the blossom end rot I have seen in tomato is due to too little water supplied to tomatoes during dry, very hot periods like we are having now. Some varieties are much more sensitive to dry conditions and will show severe blossom end rot symptoms while other varieties do not. Your tomato plants are going to need more water than you may be used to giving them over the next few weeks if conditions remain hot and dry.

Blossom end rot on tomato fruit

Ripening Disorders in Tomatoes

Friday, August 21st, 2009

Gordon Johnson, Extension Ag Agent, Kent Co.;

I have seen a considerable amount of tomato blotchy ripening, yellow shoulder, graywall and white tissue in market tomatoes recently. The discolored tissue is often hard even when the rest of the tomato is ripe. These are physiological ripening disorders and not diseases. Symptoms often appear during stress periods or when the environment changes rapidly. The recent hot weather after the previous period of cloudy, rainy weather may have been a contributing factor to the onset of these tomato fruit ripening disorders.

There are several keys to controlling blotchy ripening, yellow shoulder, and other tissue ripening disorders in tomato. First is variety selection. Some tomatoes are more prone to develop yellow shoulders than others, especially those with dark green shoulders without the uniform ripening gene. Other varieties are prone to excess white tissue development. Review local tomato trial results for ripening disorder ratings. Second is to manage crop canopies — yellow shoulder is more prevalent in open canopies; blotchy ripening is more prevalent in dense canopies. Try to have a canopy that allows for air circulation with adequate fruit cover but without excessive vegetation. Third, and probably the most important, is to manage potassium nutrition. Tomatoes are heavy users of potassium and a shortage of potassium during fruit development and ripening can lead to increased problems with ripening disorders. Tomatoes require close to 200 lbs of K2O to grow a heavy crop. In our commercial vegetable recommendation guide even at optimum soil levels we recommend 100 lbs of K2O (300 lbs K2O in soils with low K2O levels) for a crop of tomatoes.

To reduce ripening disorders during the growing season, apply additional potassium through the drip system under plastic or as a sidedressing in bare ground production. Foliar applications of potassium can also be of benefit to reduce symptoms but should not take the place of soil applications.