Detailed description

Quiet a number of maladies can plague the tomato fruit. If you have noticed abnormal cavities pitted with scar tissue and swelling, your tomato may be afflicted with cat-facing fruit deformity. Cat-facing refers to a type of physiological damage affecting tomatoes and represented by scarring and cavities near the blossom end.

So called since the abnormal cracking and dimpling on tomatoes looks somewhat akin to a small cat’s face. Basically, it is the abnormal development of plant tissue affecting the ovary or female sex organ which results in the flower, followed by the fruit development to become malformed. In concentric cracking, the fruit develop circular, concentric cracks around the stem end of the fruit.

In radial cracking, the fruit cracks radiate form the stem end. Cat-face is expressed as malformation and cracking of fruit at the blossom end, often exposing the locules.

Cat-face on green fruits
Cat-face on ripe tomato fruits
Cat-facing disorder
One of our customers who visited our offices having a challenge of Cat-facing disorder in his tomatoes recently

Conditions favoring disorder development.

The exact cause of cat-facing on tomatoes is uncertain and could be caused by any number of factors but seems to center around unfavorable growing conditions as discussed below:

Possible causes are cold weather with night temperatures of 12 degrees Celsius or lower at flowering time. Other researchers say that temperatures below 16 degrees Celsius for a number of successive days when plants are immature ~ about three weeks prior to blooming appear to coincide with tomato cat-facing fruit deformity. The result is incomplete pollination, which creates the deformity.

Periods of very fast fruit growth with high temperature and moisture levels.

Initial fruit growth during a dry period followed by heavy rain or irrigation during ripening.

Wide differences in day and night temperatures. Cat-face may be caused by abnormally cool or hot weather, or any disturbance to flower parts during blossoming.

High nitrogen levels.

Herbicide injury.

Poor nutrition.


Physical damage to the blossom can also cause cat-facing.

Thrips ~ tiny slender insects with fringed wings may also contribute to cat-facing.

Managing the disorder.

Grow varieties that historically have no issues with cat-facing disorder.

Prevent the soil from becoming sodden by irrigation control and well-draining soil.

Avoid the use of hormonal based herbicides and the potential drift that may accompany their use.

Conclusively, manage all the other highlighted factors above such as moisture – have a sound irrigation scheduling, monitor nitrogen levels, careful pruning, control thrips timeously, avoid causing injuries to the fruits when carrying out agronomic activities and have an effective nutrition management regime as determined by soil analysis.

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