Help! My tomatoes are cracked

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I have had something strange happen to many of my tomatoes this year. I have looked at all kinds of disease pictures online and none are like what is happening. On the stem end of the tomato fruit, there are dark cracks that go away from the stem like a many-pointed star. I have quite a few ripening or already ripe tomatoes that show this. Those dark cracks are tough and have to be trimmed out because you can’t eat them. Is this some new disease?

Ramses II, an ancient Egyptian pharaoh, explained it best long ago when he said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” He may be dead, but he is still right.

In the plant world, there are pests, like insects and mites and there are pathogens like fungal and bacterial diseases but the third category is the largest. That category is called physiological or environmental problems. When in doubt, No. 3 is often where to look when plant problem-solving.

You have a physiological problem with your tomatoes. The problem has a name and this malady is called “growth cracks.” This is a very common problem on tomato fruit. The cracks appear on the stem end and will radiate out like a giant asterisk or might appear as concentric rings or arcs surrounding the stem. Growth cracks appear following rapid growth of the fruit. This is brought on by heavy rains following a dry period.

Sound familiar?

Often, regular watering does not give the same benefits to plants and the heavy rains at the end of July and early August literally exploded the tomatoes in size. Early defoliation of tomato plants from leaf diseases can also help to create growth cracks because the top of the tomato has no shade and they grow, cook and split.

The reason the cracks or the splits are dark is because they have healed, leaving the tomato’s version of scar tissue. Sometimes, when these splits are new and the air is warm and humid, various fruit-rotting fungi drop in and the crack area begins to turn black and get soft and rotten. If all you have are growth cracks, do just what you have been doing. Trim them out and enjoy your fresh, “tomatoey” experience.

You are not alone in the tomato growing community with this problem this year.

I have several small brownish or dark birds that are hanging on the outside of the house and pecking on the bricks of my home. I don’t want them there and I do not want any damage to my home and I do not want them trying to into my home. How do I stop this?

The chances that small birds will inflict damage to the bricks on your house are somewhat less that zero.

Brick is a rough, hard surface with little pits and depressions. Many small insects will use these small spots to lay eggs or to construct their pupal casings. They then pupate into their adult form and wander off. The insects also cannot damage your bricks.

The birds are harvesting tiny, protein-rich snacks from the places where these are tucked.  The birds are showcasing biological control at its finest. This is when one life form controls another. This is the best solution.

Insect eggs and pupae are on the house. The birds remove them, doing no damage and charging no money. The birds leave when the job is completed. Your concern for your house has solved itself. Keep in mind that neither the insects nor the birds had any intentions of breaking and entering. All will soon be right in paradise.

Contact Gretchen Voyle, MSU Extension-Livingston County Horticulture Educator, at (517) 546-3950.

About Gretchen Voyle 51 Articles

Gretchen Voyle is the MSU Extension-Livingston County Horticulture Educator. She can be reached at (517) 546-3950.