Tomato Blossom End Rot (BER) seems to be a subject of ongoing discussion – most recently in articles published by Underwood Gardens: ( ) and Mother Earth News: ( ), but we have seen many other articles in different publications about the same topic, over the years. While it is true enough that this classic nutritionally-precipitated disease is caused by Calcium deficiency in the plant, the better question – which seems to have not been discussed – is, “Why is there a deficiency?“.

While both articles (and most of the others) accurately cite “plant-unavailable” Calcium issues (paradoxically, often in high-Calcium soils) as the problem, there can be other plant stresses inducing the disease.

By using today’s current soil-testing methods, employed by most all labs, Calcium is “over-extracted” – into those Calcium compounds (especially, bicarbonate) which are not readily plant-available – thereby reporting to the grower an adequacy or over-adequacy of [plant-available] Calcium levels in the soil.

But it can get worse. Using irrigation water that is hard (high in bicarbonates), on a calcareous (high pH) soil, can over time, effectively turn your soil to Stone and decimate your plants, because, “What’s In Your Water Becomes Part Of Your Soil”™.

But by far, the most frequent cause of BER we see is NOT plant-unavailable soil Calcium, but a deficiency of the micronutrient, BORON in the plants.

Mulder's Chart

Mulder’s Chart

Boron is essential for the transport of Calcium (as well as other nutrients) within the plant. Your plants could be planted in pure lime but without Boron, they would soon die from Calcium deficiency. But Boron is VERY rapidly tied-up by Calcium (see Mulder’s Chart). And don’t overlook von Liebig’s “Law of the Minimum”…

It used to be, in the olden days of soils with generally high levels of Organic Matter (OM), Boron toxicity was unremarkable, especially if the irrigation water came from deep sources, such as deep wells or lakes, as OM holds Boron (and other things). Accordingly, over time, repeated applications of Boron-laden water would result in toxic levels of Boron being built-up in high-OM soils.

Pretty much not so, any more. Now, we most often see soil samples containing less than one percent OM and Boron deficiency is endemic, most especially in, but certainly not restricted to soils with a pH of over 7 – not only in tomatoes, but in sugar beets (as Crown-Rot) and in other crops, as well.

Boron is an Essential Micronutrient - InfoGraphic from TP&S Lab

Boron is an Essential Micronutrient – InfoGraphic from TP&S Lab

Comprehensive plant-sap testing is generally too expensive for the small grower, so what is the small grower to do when BER is observed and the soil is known to have adequate plant-available Calcium – and the other conditions known to cause plant stress are unremarkable?

BORAX contains about 11% Boron and is readily-available at most grocery stores and is readily-dissolvable in water. The most efficient and rapid induction of many nutrients into the plant is by foliar spray. Of course, when applying a foliar spray, a surfactant or “spreader-sticker” must usually be a part of the spray mix.

Foliar sprays bypass the chemical interactions of soil chemistry. However, as with many foliar nutrient sprays – especially those containing micronutrients and trace elements, an extremely cautious, judicious and conservative approach must be used.

Unless you have gotten specific recommendations from your comprehensive plant analysis report and have precision spraying equipment, Always Titrate.

It does not take much of micros and/or traces to kill your plants. These things are called, “micros” and “traces” for a reason. It is better to be some short than a lot over…

BER is perhaps the most easily and inexpensively-cured disease there is – but it helps to know what the deeper underlying causes could be.

In general, adequate micronutrients and trace elements are essential for the plant’s ability to protect itself from disease. Additionally, they can make a very substantial difference in the quality, storage longevity, nutrition and taste of the fruit.

“Nature always eats the weakest.” With stressed plants, it is usually bugs and/or disease.

And remember that plants’ nutritional demands can change frequently and dramatically throughout the growing season…

For more information about tomato cultivation, please see:

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Texas Plant and Soil Lab continues to help farmers and growers all around the world!

Texas Plant and Soil Lab welcomes new customers and test samples from all around the world. This last month we have had samples and tests from the following places for the following crops:

Testing Samples from all over the World at Texas Plant and Soil Lab

Testing Samples from all over the World at Texas Plant and Soil Lab

• From Mexico, we received plant samples for broccoli, garlic, mustard, onion and turnip.
• From Mexico, the lab received fertilizer samples for lab testing.
• From Idaho, the lab received soil samples for lab testing for barley, beet, wheat and hay.
• From California the lab received water samples for lab testing.
• From Tennessee the lab received soil samples for testing for turf.
• From Michigan the lab received soil samples for testing for corn and soybean crops.
• From Iowa, the lab received soil samples for lab testing.
• From Connecticut, the lab received soil samples for testing for blueberry plants.
• From Georgia, the lab received humic samples for lab testing.
• From Georgia, the lab received soil samples for lab testing for blueberries.
• From New Zealand, the lab received plant samples for pasture and clover.
• From Florida, the lab received soil samples for vegetables and peaches.
• From Pennsylvania, the lab received soil samples for tomato plants.
• From Maryland, soil samples for cucumbers, corn, string beans, and soybeans.
• From Nevada, the lab received soil samples for corn.
• From Utah, the lab received compost samples for lab testing.
• From Ohio, the lab received soil samples for pasture and legume.
• From Michigan, the lab received soil samples for vegetables, grains and apple trees.

Farmers and Growers all around the world choose Texas Plant and Soil Lab over their own closer, regional labs because TPSL grows superior crops in record breaking yields. TPSL delivers what no other lab in the world can deliver because we use a proprietary method of testing that mimics the way plant’s roots take up nutrients from the soil. And TPSL has been refining and adjusting this method – and our proprietary nutritional guidelines – for over 65 years.

Call the lab today at 956-383-0739 and tell us about your crops and your needs. Whatever you’re doing, we can show you how to grow greater crops in bigger yields using less fertilizer and less water. Or contact us from our website. You’ll be glad you did.

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Texas Plant & Soil Labs Proprietary Plant Nutritional Standards

TP&S Lab

TP&S Lab

The secret to TP&S Lab’s success is our proprietary plant nutritional standards, which have been continuously updated since standards were initially published in the early 1950s – standards under which, most labs (whether private or institutional) still operate. Our ever-dynamic standards accommodate generally-declining soil conditions and new crop varieties – among other things. After all there is a whole lot more to plant nutrition than just N-P-K…

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Soil Test Samples Drying Before Testing

We’re running a skeleton crew today to keep all lab testing processing on time even during the New Year’s Holiday week. We will be closed Thursday, January 1st so that our families and yours can spend time celebrating the New Year. Business-day turn-around times on all testing should remain consistent.

Soil Sample Bags Drying Before Processing for Soil Testing.

Soil Sample Bags Drying Before Processing for Soil Testing.

Here’s a great picture from the lab of Soil Samples drying in natural ambient air, before sending to our proprietary drying chamber, after which they are hand-ground for processing and soil testing.

While we have modernized our machinery and our infrastructure over the years to increase productivity and efficiencies, many of our processes, such as ambient-air drying and grinding samples by hand, remain consistent from the days of our founding in 1938 to this modern-day era of computers and machine-automation. The reason for this is that many of these traditional ways of doing things are collectively responsible for the remarkably accurate reports and recommendations that no other agricultural lab can aspire to and yield results that no other program of testing and fertilizing can duplicate. Compare it to the fine quality and aesthetics of hand-made furniture as opposed to the cheap, inferior product of assembly-line constructed furniture.

Call TP&S Lab today to discuss your farming situation and how we can turn things around for you: grow you bigger crops at higher quality with less cost. Call us at 956-383-0739.

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