By Les Harrison
Wakulla County Extension Director
Tropical Storm Debby is on a heading away from Wakulla County and Florida’s Big Bend, but leaving a trail of damage in her wake. One already visible bit of wreckage is to the local tomato crop in gardens and small farms.
Tomatoes are already showing sign of growth cracking. It can best be described as radial cracking originating at the stem end down toward the blossom end, and as concentric cracking, which occurs as rings around the stem scar.
Cracking occurs when the tomatoes’ internal expansion is faster than the expansion of the epidermis, causing the outer skin to split. Varieties differ greatly in their susceptibility to cracking. Cracking can occur at all stages of fruit growth but as fruit mature they become more susceptible, especially as color develops.
Those varieties that are very susceptible to cracking may crack when fruit is still green while varieties that are tolerant may start to crack at the breaker stage.
Management is accomplished by reducing, to the extent possible, large fluctuations in growth rates by selecting tolerant varieties, reducing fluctuations in soil moisture, and maintaining good foliage cover, since exposed fruit are more susceptible.