Recently I noticed the following cracks and small holes on the bottom side of my better boy tomoato plants. I am in Maryland and we have not had a lot of rain the past month however I regularly try to ensure they get about 1" water a week from a soaker hose setup. What could be causing this? Is it due to a fluctuation in water levels somehow? Note that I'm growing four other types of tomato (brandy boy, porterhouse, grape, and an early season hybrid) and this is the only one that is having the issue.

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It looks to me like catfacing. See images on this google search for "catfacing" -- they look a lot like yours.

According to this web page there is no cure; the problem is related to planting out and can only be prevented. They mention that large-fruit varieties are most susceptible, so your Brandy Boy and Porterhouse may be at risk if they were planted the same way. Your grapes might be safer. They also say:

...disturbances in flower production such as low temperature, injury 3-weeks before flowers are mature, especially in early plantings, but also with injury from growth regulators such as 2,4-d. Pruning and high nitrogen can also aggravate the problem.

Some useful references are included at the bottom of that page; the [second reference to a World Vegetable Center article on catfacing gives explicit control instructions to help prevent it next season.

This Colorado State Extension tomato problems fact sheet shows pictures of catfacing next to blossom end rot. If you compare the two photos there, yours looks much more like catfacing than BER.

Catfacing (Figure 10) is a term that describes tomato fruit that is misshapen, with scars and holes in the blossom end. The cause is thought to be cold weather during blossoming and perhaps high levels of nitrogen. To manage it, avoid setting out transplants too early in the season.

They don't come out and say it, but again there's no cure, only prevention.

  • 3
    maybe it's only me, but the google image search images you link to bring to mind not a cat's face, but, er, a different feline body part – Tea Drinker Jun 27 '11 at 8:09
  • I reviewed this with an experienced gardener in my area and concurred with catfacing as well. Thanks for the information as this was very helpful to confirm as well. – Jakkwylde Jun 27 '11 at 15:09

Having read something about this problem before, I did a bit of hunting. I do not (yet) have personal experience with this, but considering the weather can certainly believe that I will!

In looking at your photo, it's unclear if it's insect holes, black leathery patches that are characteristic of blossom end rot, or a hole that is a result of a cave-in from blossom end rot.

I'm leaning toward blossom end rot, which is a problem with insufficient calcium for the rapidly developing fruit. As I understand, it could be a result of unstable soil moisture levels.

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