Tomato transplants damping off in the field

gleneco1 at gleneco1 at
Tue May 14 01:52:06 EDT 2002

The problem you discribe is very common in plastic mulched tomatoes in my
area, we found its not a disease, but physical damage caused by the
rubbing the tomato stem, after planting we come back and put one good
handful of soil around the stem of each plant sealing the hole and
protecting the stem...Bob

I have observed some of this problem on the first day I set them out. 
sun came out shortly after I had set some and any whose tops had wilted
as a
result of transplant shock and had leaves touching the plastic got burnt.
This mostly happened to smaller and weaker plants and only involved a few
I was not all that concerned.  I use a 2 1/2 inch diameter bulb planter
make the hole and I usually put enough soil around the stem to keep it
from the plastic.  What concerns me is that a good two inches of stem
starting at soil surface and extending downward just goes soft and
over a period of several days.  This does not look like damage caused by
plastic touching the stem but rather something pathological in the top
several inches of soil. I toss about a tablespoon full of high organic
tomato fertilizer around the base of the plant before putting the final
full of soil in the hole.  My wife thinks this is causing the problem but
have done it this way for several years and never had anything like this
happen before.  I might agree if it was an "all chemical" fertilizer.  I
would sooner suspect outgassing from the plastic as it heats up in the
but it is intended for this purpose and I've plugged tomatos thru plastic
before without problems.  I'm hoping that planting better hardened plants
the rest of the area will help but the thought still makes me nervious. 
wonder if dipping the roots in a solution of liquid copper or maybe
lime-sulfur fungicide would be a good idea or maybe spraying the stem
the root ball would be enough?  The thought of messing with the stinking
stuff doesn't excite me though. And, if I'm not mistaken, use of both of
these products is on the fringes of what is and isn't "organic"?

Marlin Burkholder
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