K-State Research and Extension News
July 11, 2013
Share  Email the story

Vegetable Plants Not Producing? May be Time to Break Out the Paint Brush


MANHATTAN, Kan. – You’ve set the stage – planted healthy vegetable plants, then watered, weeded and waited. And now your vegetables are blooming, but not producing fruit.

Situations where vegetable plants are flowering, but not setting fruit may indicate a problem with flower pollination, according to Kansas State University horticulturist Ward Upham.

“There may be several reasons for pollination problems, which usually vary by species,” Upham said. “One condition that can affect several species at the same time is over fertilization. Too much
nitrogen causes the plant to emphasize vegetative growth, often to the detriment of fruit production.”

Over fertilization can lead to a delay in flower production and a decrease in fruit set among the flowers produced, Upham said.

Squash, cucumbers, watermelon, and muskmelon can have a couple of other problems, he added. The early flowers on these plants are usually all male. The production of both male and female flowers becomes more balanced as time passes.

You can easily tell the difference between the two because only the female flower has a tiny fruit behind the blossom, he said. If you have both, have not over-fertilized, and still have a problem, make sure you have pollinators. Look for the presence of bees visiting the plants. If you don't see any, try hand-pollinating several flowers by using a painter’s brush to transfer pollen from the anther of the male flower to the stigma of the female flower.

“If you get fruit on only those flowers you pollinated, you need more pollinators. Make sure you aren't killing them with overuse or misuse of insecticides,” Upham said.

Tomatoes are wind pollinated and therefore not dependent on pollinators. But they have another possible problem, which is temperature. Tomatoes normally won't set if the night temperature is below 50 degrees Fahrenheit due to sparse pollen production. They also won't set when nighttime temperatures are above 75 degrees F and daytime temperatures are above 95 degrees F with dry, hot winds.

-30-


K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus, Manhattan.

Story by: Mary Lou Peter
mlpeter@ksu.edu
K-State Research & Extension News

Ward Upham – wupham@ksu.edu