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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

Upcoming Events

Niagara Region Summer Vegetable Meeting

Event Offers DEC Credits

August 3, 2021
Appleton, NY

1.5 DEC credits requested. Field meeting featuring weed and disease control. Chris Smart, Cornell's Plant Pathologist, will be discussing control of bacterial diseases in tomato, Alternaria in brassicas, and other current/hot topics in disease. Weed Scientist Lynn Sosnoskie will introduce new pigweed species that are appearing in our region and give updates on herbicide resistance and new mechanical weed control techniques. Smaller topics include soil health. 

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Chipping Potato Growers Twilight Meeting

August 5, 2021
Dansville, NY

Join us for a fun, potato-centered twilight meeting at Mahany Farms! Come hear about updates from this year's chipping potato variety trial, and learn more about disease forecasting and management. Network with fellow growers, event speakers, and Cornell Cooperative Extension staff following the talks.

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Announcements

Bird Control in Sweet Corn with Laser Scarecrows

From the 2021 Empire State Producers Expo, a recording of Laser Scarecrows to Deter Birds in Sweet Corn. Featured speakers are Dr. Rebecca Brown, University of Rhode Island, Jeremy Perkins, Bird Control Group, and Nick Stanton, Stanton's Feura Farm. Chuck Bornt from Cornell Cooperative Extension moderates the session. The presentation by Dr. Ali Nafchi has been edited out at his request. 

Short on time? Read the Video Transcript: Bird Control in Sweet Corn with Laser Scarecrows.

For more information about laser scarecrow research in our region, contact Julie Kikkert.

Herbicide Charts for Vegetable Crops Available

The Cornell Vegetable Program has compiled herbicide charts for control of weeds in the following crops in New York in 2021: table beets and peas. While these reference charts are handy, it is critical to read the labels thoroughly. 

Eastern Broccoli Market Opportunity Assessment

Is there an opportunity for New York growers and marketers to invest in broccoli production and distribution as a way to diversify and strengthen their businesses, while adding jobs, dollars, and resilience to the economy and rural communities?

The Eastern Broccoli Market Opportunity Assessment for New York State sought to answer this very question. The study was made possible by the initiative of three partner organizations: Hudson Valley AgriBusiness Development Corporation, Red Tomato, and the Eastern Broccoli Project, with funding provided by Empire State Development.


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