[Market-farming] Tomato disaster!

KAKerby at aol.com KAKerby at aol.com
Tue May 22 22:03:41 EDT 2012

This is a total shot in the dark, and an extrapolation of what worked for  
one fungal problem into what might work in another.  So, proceed with  
caution, but here goes: A tomato grower here (not me) was looking at a really  
bad case of early blight a few years ago - she'd already lost a lot of plants 
(I  think about half) and she was afraid she'd lose the whole planting.   
Instead of thinking in terms of killing the evil bad fungus already there, she 
 went the other direction and deliberately introduced massive amounts of 
good  healthy fungus and associated beneficial bacteria, via compost tea as a 
foliar  spray.  She said she was able to save most of the remaining plants 
and  salvaged something of the tomato harvest, rather than watching the whole 
thing  burn down.
While early blight is a leaf issue, rather than a base/stem issue, the  
basic principle would seem to be the same - flood the area with the good guys  
and the bad guys won't be able to compete.  Or at least it'll slow 'em  
down.  I found myself reading through your dilemma and wondered if that  might 
be a worthwhile option.  If you choose that option I'd love to hear  how it 
works out.  Actually, please let us know what option(s) you choose  and how 
it/they worked.  I'm sure one or more of us will eventually face  something 
similar in the future.
Kathryn Kerby
Snohomish, WA
Ruminations - essays on the farming life at  frogchorusfarm.com/weblog.html

--Original Message-----
From:  market-farming-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
[mailto:market-farming-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org]  On Behalf Of Marlin
Sent: Saturday, May 19, 2012 8:23 PM
To:  Market Farming
Subject: [Market-farming] Tomato disaster!

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 
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  
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 
foot tall plants, some of which had tomatoes on approaching  the size of 
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 
lettuce soon after transplanting to some similar type of  root rot but it 
nothing to be alarmed about. There is some tomato loss in  that house but 
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 
sort  of fungicide before putting them back in the holes.  I would also  
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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