This time of year, gardeners around the state are hovering over their tomato starts, perhaps even harvesting their first ripe tomatoes. The sight of any abnormality could send some into a state of panic. For many growers, whether they're new at gardening or have been doing it for years, keeping a tomato plant healthy and productive through the end of the season can be one of the most frustrating tasks.
Tomatoes can suffer from any number of ailments, at any stage, from root to leaf: damping off, stunting, yellowing, wilting, and rotting. The fruits can crack or turn black, appear mushy or mottled, or never form at all as blossom after blossom drops from the plant.
As for what can be causing these symptoms, the list is long and confusing: too much water, too little water, hot weather, cold weather, excess nitrogen, calcium deficiency, fungi, bacteria, viruses, insects, and on and on. You practically have to be a scientist to determine what's going on with your plant.
Fortunately, a new app from the American Phytopathological Society (APS) called Tomato MD aims to help you identify and manage your plant problem, whether it occurs in the roots, stems, leaves, flowers, or fruits. The interactive reference tool covers nearly 30 key diseases, insects, and physiological disorders that commonly affect tomatoes, and an extensive gallery of images and tips that cover everything from cultural to chemical management.
The app is based in part on two APS Press books: Tomato Health Management and the Compendium of Tomato Diseases and Pests, Second Edition. Information in the app was authored and peer-reviewed by several members of APS, a 100-year-old nonprofit that focuses on plant health management.
Tomato MD is available for $2.99 on iPhone and iPad.