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Why Aren't My Tomatoes Ripening?

Steve Reiners, Co-Team Leader, Cornell University
Eastern New York Commercial Horticulture

August 22, 2012
Why Aren't My Tomatoes Ripening?

With all of the hot weather we have experienced this summer, growers were expecting their tomatoes to ripen very quickly. Unfortunately, just the opposite is happening. Ripening seems very slow, almost like what we see in the autumn when temperatures are much cooler.

So what's happening? It takes six to eight weeks from the time of pollination until tomato fruit reach full maturity. The length of time depends on the variety grown and of course, the weather conditions. The       optimum temperature for ripening tomatoes is 70 to 75F. When temperatures exceed 85 to 90 F, the ripening process slows significantly or even stops. At these temperatures, lycopene and carotene, pigments responsible for giving the fruit their typical orange to red appearance cannot be produced. As a result, the fruit can stay in a mature green phase for quite some time.

Light conditions have very little to do with ripening. Tomatoes do not require light to ripen and in fact, fruit exposed to direct sunlight will heat to levels that inhibit pigment synthesis. Direct sun can also lead to sunscald of fruit. Do not remove leaves in an effort to ripen fruit. Also, soil fertility doesn't play much of a role. We do know that high levels of magnesium and low levels of potassium can lead to conditions like blotchy or uneven ripening or yellow shoulder disorder. But the slowness to ripen is not likely due to soil conditions and adding additional fertilizer will do nothing to quicken ripening.

If you absolutely cannot wait, some growers will remove fruit that are showing the first color changes.  These fruit, in the a mature green or later phase, could be stored at room temperature (70-75F) in the dark. A more enclosed environment would be best as ethylene gas, released from fruit as they ripen, will stimulate other fruit to ripen. If temperatures remain high outdoors, these picked fruit will ripen more quickly, perhaps by as much as five days. As far as flavor, the greener fruit should develop flavor and color similar to what you would get if field ripened. The key is picking them when they are showing the first signs of ripening (no earlier) and keeping them at room temperature. Do not refrigerate, as this will absolutely destroy their flavor.

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Asparagus

Asparagus

Beets

Beets

Broccoli

Broccoli

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts

Cabbage

Cabbage

Carrots

Carrots

Cauliflower

Cauliflower

Cucumbers

Cucumbers

Dry Beans

Dry Beans

Eggplant

Eggplant

Ethnic Vegetables

Ethnic Vegetables

Garlic

Garlic

Horseradish

Horseradish

Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi

Leeks

Leeks

Lettuce / Leafy Greens

Lettuce / Leafy Greens

Melons

Melons

Onions

Onions

Parsnips

Parsnips

Peas

Peas

Peppers

Peppers

Potatoes

Potatoes

Pumpkins / Gourds

Pumpkins / Gourds

Radishes

Radishes

Rhubarb

Rhubarb

Rutabaga

Rutabaga

Snap Beans

Snap Beans

Squash - Summer

Squash - Summer

Squash- Winter

Squash- Winter

Sweet Corn

Sweet Corn

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes

Tomatoes

Tomatoes

Turnips

Turnips

more crops
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Upcoming Events

2017 Empire State Producers EXPO

Event Offers DEC Credits

January 16 - January 19, 2017
Morning, Mid-day, and Afternoon Sessions
Syracuse, NY

Planning is already under way for the 2017 Empire State Producers Expo! This show combines the major fruit, flower, vegetable, and direct marketing associations of New York State in order to provide a comprehensive trade show and educational conference for the fruit and vegetable growers of this state, as well as the surrounding states and Eastern Canada. 
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Announcements

Ag Commissioner Tours WNY Farms: Drought Damage

The NYS Ag and Markets Commissioner, Richard Ball, toured four farms in the area affected by severe drought on Friday, September 9.

At 1:30 he visited the Edward Sharp and Sons Farm on Warboys road in Byron. Also along for the tour was Dean Norton, President of the NYS Farm Bureau, Chris Watkins, Director of Cornell Cooperative Extension and Senator Michael Ranzenhofer. Cornell Vegetable Program Specialist Christy Hoepting also participated in the tour.

Aaron Sharp, who is a 4th Generation farmer on his family's farm, says he has worked hard to save his cabbage crop, but the size and quantity are not there. Sharp says that goes for his pumpkin crop too. Sharp says recovery could easily take several years.

Commissioner Ball says he is touring areas across the state to assess the drought damage and better understand the outlook for recovery.

Ball also visited the McCormick Farm in Bliss, Stein Farm in LeRoy and Branton Farm in LeRoy.



Drought Issues on Your Farm? Tell Us About It!

Are you experiencing drought issues on your farm? Please help us collect regional information so we can help vegetable growers be better prepared in the future.

As you know, this summer we have experienced a period of lower than average rainfall combined with higher than average temperatures that has led to a drought of moderate to unprecedented severity in New York and much of the Northeast.

A 2016 NY drought survey is being conducted and we need your input. Vegetable producers are underrepresented in this survey right now. The survey is an attempt to capture at this critical time information on regional impacts and how you are coping with this situation, so that farmers and those institutions and industries that support farmers will be better prepared in the future. This is associated with research being conducted by NatureNet Science Postdoctoral Fellow, Shannan Sweet, working with Professor David Wolfe on a project focused on NYS water resources and agriculture. Thanks for your help!

Questions or comments? Contact: Shannan Sweet (607-255-8641) or David Wolfe (607-255-7888).

Cornell High Tunnels Website Redesigned

The Cornell High Tunnel website has been redesigned to help farmers profit from the use of high tunnels to extend their growing season and produce higher quality vegetables, fruit and flowers. The site contains information on the different types of structures and the resources for high tunnel profitability. Events, Tweets by Judson Reid, and the latest blog articles are accessible as well.

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