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13 Common Challenges Facing Tomato Production

If you’re needing help with solving common challenges facing tomato production this summer then look no further.

You’re about to read all about common challenges facing tomato production, whether it’s tomato insects or diseases. In addition, I will provide solutions to these common challenges so you can overcome them! 

I have been growing tomatoes a VERY long time, I’ve dealt with most of these major challenges in one way or another. I want to help you to combat them so you can grow tomatoes you’re proud of. Once you discover what ails tomatoes and how to solve each major problem, you’ll be able to lower your production costs and increase your average yields during your next growing season. 

Questions About Common Challenges Facing Tomato Production will answer:

  • Several common challenges facing tomato production you might be facing as a tomato grower.
  • Insect pests of tomato plants.
  • What is the best way to control said tomato insects.
  • Disease Identification in Tomatoes.

Listen to the Episode: 

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Diseases and Pests

Leaf curl

This curling or rolling of the leaves occurs in hot weather or after cultivation or severe pruning and does not affect yield or quality. Keep plants well watered, and do not hoe deeply around plants.

Blossom end rot

Appearing as a dry leathery patch at the bottom of tomato fruit, this disorder is caused by fluctuations in the soil’s moisture supply or by a quick transition from cool to hot weather. Provide uniform watering, use a mulch, and do not over fertilize with nitrogen.

Blossom drop

At temperatures below 60°F or above 90°F, blooms may fall off plants. Avoid excessive nitrogen fertilization, which encourages blossom drop.

Cracking

Sudden summer rains or watering after drought may cause fruit cracking. Varieties differ in their tendency to crack, so choose one recommended for your are, such as Jet Star for us growers in Kansas. Pick fruits in the pink (orange-red) stage and allow them to ripen indoors.

Weed spray damage

Phenoxy herbicides such as 2,4-D in small quantities may cause twisting and distortion of tomato stems and leaves. Avoid using these sprays close to your garden and on days the wind can direct vapors or spray onto your plants. Plants usually return to normal in a few weeks.

Wilts

Sudden wilting and death can occur as a result of this serious tomato disease. Choose tomato varieties that are resistant to wilt.

Blight and other foliage diseases

Several fungus diseases cause spots or lesions on tomato leaves and fruit. Lower leaves may yellow, die, and fall off the plant. These diseases worsen in warm, humid weather. Planting tomatoes in a different area each year can help. Apply a fungicide, such as copper sulfate spray applied at weekly intervals to control this problem. Your local garden center can suggest products containing these fungicides. Mulching also helps.

Aphids

These small green, yellow, or dark-colored insects are often present on tomato plants. Spray plants thoroughly with malathion, cyfluthrin or permethrin. Sevin will not control this pest. Large numbers of lady bugs, lacewings, and other predator insects may control aphids.

Cutworms

Worms cut young tomato plants off at ground level. A paper or aluminum foil collar around each plant should prevent damage.

Spider mites

The first indication of these tiny, difficult-to-see insects is a pale stipple or small white spots on leaves.

Later, leaves shrivel and turn brown, and a fine webbing often appears on the undersides of leaves. Early treatment is crucial. Use a strong jet of water from a hose twice a week to dislodge mites. Be sure to hit the undersides of the leaves.

Fruitworms

These green or brown worms with light-colored heads bore into tomato fruits. Use cyfluthrin, spinosad (organic), or permethrin.

Tomato hornworms

These are large green worms with a horn or tail that eat large amounts of tomato foliage. Remove by hand picking. Use Bacillus thuringiensis (BT), cyfluthrin, spinosad (organic), or permethrin for control.

Stink bugs

These green or brown shield-shaped insects suck juices from fruits, leaving white “cloudy spots” beneath the skin. The fruit is safe to eat fresh or to can. If control is desired, cyfluthrin can be applied to the fruit.

Combating the Various Problems 

One aspect I am adamant about in gardening is soil health. Soil Quality is vital for the production of tomato plants. It’s super important to have healthy soil for any garden to thrive. Tomatoes in particular are easy to stress, so making sure you plant in the right soil at the right time is imperative to their survival.

* Practice Crop Rotation – Rotate your plants to a different spot each season. 

* Soil Test – Make sure your soil has the right make up of nutrients. One of the main causes of several of these diseases have to do with low nutrients. 

~ Adverse weather conditions – You can’t always control these but it can be a major factor. 

~Tomato breeding practices – Choose high quality and disease resistant plants to grow. 

* Pest Management Strategies – Once you know what pest you’re dealing with, you can definitely focus your study area on how to control that pest. 

Diseases

Leaf curl

Occurs in hotter weather or after weeding cultivation. If you prune your plants, it doesn’t affect the yield or the quality of the plants or the quality of the tomatoes. The main thing to do is to keep plants watered. Chances are they may not be getting enough water.

I’m a big fan of watering at the ground level using drip irrigation or soaker hoses, especially when there is little to no rain. Water your plants in the very coolest part of the day until the ground is saturated.

Blossom end rot

This is a disease caused by stress. This is a disease that could happen later on if planted too cold or if the soil is too wet. Here’s what you might see.

The disease identification in tomatoes for blossom end rot looks like a dry leathery patch at the bottom of the tomato fruits. This disorder is caused by fluctuations in the soil moisture supply by a quick transition from cool to hot weather. How to overcome that is to provide uniform watering at the ground level. In addition, use a mulch such as black, plastic, or straw. Don’t over fertilize with nitrogen. Nitrogen fertilizer is not needed after a certain time. 

Another tip that my grandma swears by, and yours might too, is using epsom salts around the bottom of the plants. I haven’t actually tried this but epsom salts is very low price so it won’t hurt you to try if you’re interested in that. 

Blossom drop

Blossom drop is when the little blossoms on the tomatoes fall off unexpectedly. They typically do this when the temperatures are below 60 degrees Fahrenheit or above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. So we’ve had hot temperatures lately. We’ve had above average temperatures for June and we’re into July now but above 90 degrees blooms might fall off the plant and sometimes that’s due to excessive nitrogen fertilization.

If you’re giving miracle grow or some kind of nitrogen based fertilizer, you’re going to see that blossom drop a little more excessively. Again, you can just stop the fertilizer and just water at the ground level like you have been, mulch, and just try to do the best you can. You cannot control the temperatures unless your tomatoes are inside agricultural systems such as the use of tunnels, a hoop house or greenhouse. So you’re just going to have to wait it out and kind of see what happens with your tomato productivity.

Cracking

What I mean by cracking in your tomatoes, you might be seeing cracking happening on top or where the stem meets the fruit and this is typically caused by high water content, sudden summer rains or watering during a drought. One way to get around this is to choose a variety that is a little more crack resistant. One of my favorite varieties that produces beautiful tomatoes and hardly ever cracks is called Jet Star. We grow Jet Star every year. We actually won champion tomatoes of the Kansas State Fair one year with Jet Stars.

Another tip if you’re having problems with cracking is to pick the tomatoes at the pink stage or the orange to red stage before they crack and allow them to ripen indoors. Basically you just need a cool room inside with some light, although they may take a little longer to ripen that way. Postharvest losses of tomato is very low if you pick them this way. Tomatoes actually have a pretty long shelf life in a cooler or controlled indoor area. 

Weed spray damage

24-D is a really common chemical found in herbicide mixtures, so it is sprayed for weeds and typically crop fields. The drift can affect the tomatoes in your garden so easily.

Tomatoes are very, very sensitive to 24-D. It can cause twisting and distortion of the tomato stems and leaves and can even kill the tomato plants if too much you drift wanders it’s way onto them. The best way to combat this is to talk to your neighbor and let them know and to ask them to be extra diligent.

Wilting

There are a lot of causes to wilting and it is very common in tomato production. Sometimes it’s caused by a rainy season you can’t control or soil conditions. You can choose varieties that are resistant to wilting. Do a search at your local garden center, talk with some other tomato farmers, see what they’re doing to find the wilt resistant varieties in your area. A lot of times, your necessary inputs will make or break tomato farming problems. 

Blight

Blight is a fungal disease, so it causes spots or lesions on tomato leaves and fruit. Disease identification in tomatoes for blight: You might see lower leaves turning yellow and dying and falling off the plant. This disease can worsen, especially if it’s raining on top of it.

Therefore, watering at the ground level is a great thing. If you can use soaker hoses on your tomatoes when it’s hot, dry, and humid, that is going to help your blight problems. Another way you can combat these problems is to plant tomatoes in a different area each year. Rotate your tomato plantings to a different open field will help control several different fungal diseases and main challenges tomatoes face.

You can apply a fungicide or copper sulfate spray at weekly intervals to control this problem. Also, if you need some recommendations on good fungicide, just look at your local garden center.

Insects that are common tomato growing problems

No matter what your production practices are, sometimes you just can’t help but have insect problems. For various reasons, I’ll tell you that the use of pesticides is not always the best answer. Just going out and grabbing any chemical to use doesn’t always solve the problem. It’s just putting a band aid on the problem. Also, not all chemicals kill all pests. 

First, you need to identify what insect or pest you’re dealing with. You can scout and look at your plants very regularly to locate problems. Look for large quantities of eggs on the leaves or even damage to the plants. Usually, if you know what to look for, you’ll be able to tell right away what pest is on your plants. It’s best to learn what those are quickly to avoid significant losses and low yields later. 

Aphids

They are typically small, green, yellow, or dark colored insects. There are typically presented on the tomato plants. You can control aphids using other predator insects such as lacewings or lady bugs. So there are ways that you can bring them in or they come in on their own after the aphids arrive or you can spray with an insecticide. A permethrin product will control it.

Cutworm

Ugly Brownish, Brownish Yellow, disgusting worm that cuts young tomato plants off at the ground level. So you’ll find them down there and the soil is where you’re going to look. You can control these by wrapping aluminum foil around each plant to prevent the damage. You can also pick up these slimy worms and squish them. That’s me and my kids.

However, that might be a little labor intensive so the spray might be way more doable for you. 

Spider mites

Spider mites are very hard to control once they arrive. The first indication of these tomato insects are pale or white small spots on the leaves.

The insects themselves are very tiny to see, so almost impossible to see with the naked eye. What you will see later on is leaves shriveling and turning brown and then a fine webbing that appears on the undersides of leaves. So you want to be looking at the undersides and seeing what they look like as well.

Early treatment is crucial. You can use a strong jet of water from a hose twice a week to dislodge mites, but you want to be sure to hit the undersides of the leaves. That is the best recommendation for controlling these spider mites.

Fruit worms

These are just green or brown worms with light colored heads and they bore into tomato fruit. So, if you’re seeing tomatoes that have holes in them, then chances are you’re dealing with these fruit worms.

Some insecticides you can use:  An organic one is spinosad and some commercial ones are cyfluthrin or permethrin. These are just the chemical names. You can go to a garden center and just search for a certain insecticides with permethrin or cyfluthrin.

Tomato Horn Worm

These are large green worms with a horn or tail that eats large amounts of tomato foliage. Large amounts. We’re talking like you see the tomato plant one day and it’s great the next day it’s like missing half its leaves and it looks like death. 

So, um, yeah, that’s how much damage they can do. So you want to get a handle on them as soon as possible. First you can remove by hand picking.

My girls and I go out and search the underside of the leaves if we see the tomato plants looking poorly. These tomato insects like to hide. Then, you can squish them or put them in some, put them in a cup with gasoline or fuel or something that will kill them. 

Next, you can use some kind of insecticide to spray the plants with to keep the hornworms away. Spinosad is going to be your organic solution if you’re an organic grower. Then there is cyfluthrin and permethrin control that we use it’s easy to get and we spray in the evening and it does a really good job taking control of those horn worms.

Stinkbugs

They look like green or brown shield shaped insects so they can kind of be confused with a squash bug, but they’re a little bit smaller than a squash bug.  What they do is they suck juices from the fruit, so you’ll see them once tomatoes start coming on. They leave white cloudy spots beneath the skin of the tomatoes.

Note that the fruit is safe to eat fresh or to can, just remove the insects and squish them or throw them into a cup of gasoline or turpentine.

Get a Handle on These Common Challenges Facing Tomato Production

I hope you never have to deal with these problems. But, chances are that the longer you grow your tomatoes, the better chances you will see these pesky issues. 

So, I hope that you find these solutions for tomato insects and disease identification in tomatoes helpful. Here’s some links that you might find helpful:

More resources for growing tomatoes

Best Tricks for Growing Great Tomatoes in Your Home Garden

Fight Blossom End Rot in Tomatoes

How to Control Green Tomato Hornworms

Stake Young Plants with Baling Twine

So there ya have it, 13 most common challenges facing tomato production and how to combat them. I hope you found this episode helpful. We would love if you headed on over to iTunes and leave us a review. The more reviews we receive the more content we’ll be able to provide and the more podcast guests we’ll be able to attract! 


This episode is brought to you by my e-book, Smart Gardening Made Simple. It is a short e-book where I have compiled my 33 years of knowledge into an easy to read book. I share my best secrets and practices for growing great garden vegetables that are marketable and able to be exhibited at county fairs. Also those best practices that you can use to ensure that you’re going to get the quality vegetables that you’re craving. If you’re interested in this book, scroll down to the bottom to find out more. 

Good luck with your major tomato growing endeavor and overcoming common challenges facing tomato production in your garden.

~ Much Love ~

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