[Market-farming] Tomato transplant disaster!

Marlin & Christine Burkholder burkholders at glenecofarm.com
Sun May 20 05:26:59 EDT 2012


I am having what amounts to a major disaster in my high tunnel planted
tomatoes this spring! I am having die off of plants transplanted three weeks
to a month ago. Inspection of the roots reveals that about an inch of stem
below the soil line has begun rotting and collapsing causing sudden death of
the plant. I would estimate that I have lost upwards of 1/3rd of my plants
in one house and it looks like I am going to lose more. I posted here one
day last week and several responded that it is damping off. The damp off I
am familiar with happens in the greenhouse soon after young plants have come
up. I don't think you would see damp off of 18 inch to two foot tall plants,
some of which had tomatoes on approaching the size of golf balls. I have
heard of warnings about putting fertilizer too close to stems at
transplanting. I had put about two tablespoons of "Plant Tone" (an all
organic product) mixed in the soil around the top of the roots at
transplanting. I have done this for years and never had trouble. Once about
15 years ago I had a similar problem when I transplanted tomatoes through
plastic mulch into ground that had one foot tall red clover plowed down
about a week or two before. I figured that that was triggered by too much
bacterial activity in the soil breaking down the clover and also attacking
the tomatoes. The soil in one high tunnel had been amended, tilled, and
plastic mulched last fall and did not have an excess of freshly decomposing
organic matter in the root zone. The other high tunnel had not been mulched
and was planted to over wintered spinach last fall and it had lettuce
plugged into it in very early spring. I had seen about 5% die off of lettuce
soon after transplanting to some similar type of root rot but it was nothing
to be alarmed about. There is some tomato loss in that house but not nearly
as bad as in the plastic mulched one.

Now I am wondering what the heck is going on and what should I do about it!
I'm thinking of buying some replacement plants and soaking the roots in some
sort of fungicide before putting them back in the holes. I would also spray
fungicide at the base of the plants that are still living. I would rather
not use something chemical. We do have an abundance of forage mustard
growing in other areas of the field which was planted for the purpose of
natural soil fumigation. Would it work to make up an infusion of it and
spray it on the soil? I need to pick some brains here!

Marlin Burkholder
Shenandoah Valley


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