Due to the declining availability of fungicides for use in commercial tomato production, there is a need to investigate alternative disease control methods. Several theories of disease resistance are associated with an increase in plant tissue calcium content, which has increased resistance of tomato seedlings to bacterial wilt and other diseases. Three tomato cultivars (`Mountain Supreme', `Sunrise', and `Celebrity') were grown in a greenhouse hydroponic system to study the role of Ca in reducing decay of fruit by Botrytis cinerea. Calcium treatments of 20, 200, or 1000 ppm were applied in a modified Hoagland's solution. A 3 × 3 factorial randomized complete-block design was used. Mature whole leaves were collected from immediately below the third flower clusters and the calcium content analyzed by inductively coupled plasma emission spectrophotometry. Harvested fruit were inoculated with a 5 × 105 spore/ml conidial suspension of B. cinerea and the decay lesion diameter measured once daily for 7 days. This was repeated for 8 consecutive weeks. Leaf Ca content significantly increased (P < 0.01) as the Ca treatments increased from low to medium (310%) and from medium to high (150%). The medium and high Ca treatments significantly reduced the area of decay caused by gray mold rot (P < 0.01). There were no differences in Ca content or decay among cultivars, and the Ca × cultivar interaction was not significant. It appears that leaf Ca content is negatively associated with resistance of greenhouse-grown tomatoes to gray mold rot, strengthening the hypothesized role of calcium in promoting disease resistance.
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