University of Maryland Extension

Cultural & Environmental Problems - Vegetables

Diagnosing a plant problem when there are no apparent biotic (disease pathogen or pest) causes can present a real challenge. An abiotic plant problem is not caused by any disease organisms or insects. An accurate diagnosis, whether biotic or abiotic, involves both science, (botany, entomology, and pathology) and art (strategy, investigation, and decision making). Abiotic problems can be very difficult to diagnose because they include site conditions, weather, and cultural practices. Below are some common abiotic or environmental problems of vegetables. Click on a title for more information.

A large percentage of plant problems are primarily caused by abiotic factors. Symptoms can mimic disease and insect problems, leading homeowners to the wrong conclusion about the cause of the problem.

ozone pollution on beans
Air pollution

blossom end rot on tomato
Blossom end rot

adventitious roots
Bumps on roots and

catfacing on tomato

cracks on tomatoes

Flower stalks form (bolting)
phytotoxicity on beans
Fertilizer or pesticide burn
squash cross pollination
Fruits not true to type

green shoulders on tomato
Green shoulders

herbicide damage on tomato plant
Herbicide damage

gray wall
Internal discoloration
tomato leaf curl
Leaf curl
watermelon planted late
Low yields-undersize fruits
pepper nutrient deficiency
Nutrient deficiency
poor taste
Off flavor/Poor eating quality

wind damaged corn
Plant falls over/Branches broken

deformed cucumbersPollination Problems

poor pollination fruit set
Poor blossom and fruit set

tomato phosphorus deficiency
Purple leaves

malformed carrots
Root crops -


Small blisters or pustules
sunscald on tomatoes

tip burn swiss chard

uneven ripening tomato
Uneven ripening

varietal characteristics pepper
Varietal characteristics

drought squash
Wilting - Drought or waterlogged soil

frost damaged tomato plant
Whitened leaves

kale senescence
Yellowing leaves

zippering of tomato

Related Publicatios: 

(PDF) HG 59 - IPM Series: Eggplant
(PDF) HG 57 - IPM Series: Peppers
(PDF) HG 55 - IPM Series: Potatoes
(PDF) HG 56 - IPM Series: Tomatoes

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