I have planted 30 tomato plants and 15 pepper plants in Maine. The stem on one tomato plant and 3 pepper plants have developed a brown woody stem at ground level. The woody stem is getting narrow. The plants seems to be doing ok (however the tomato plant is smaller then the rest of the tomato plants). Any idea what this is and how to correct? Thanks.
The damage to the bottom of the stem prevent the real uptake of water and feed and this will cause the stunting of the plant. I would just keep the plant going BUT maybe move it away from the other IF possible, IF not able to move try make a tent type thing around the rotter area so that ant spores cant be blown, splashed or touch the other plants, A cardboard collar may even help too.
I know it's a long shot but as already stated, this is a common problem with tomato's especially SOME type more prone to it than others, also a little bit of damage caused by removing any lower foliage can allow things like this to enter the stems and spread.
A couple of years ago when this struck some of my POT grown plants, I just buried the plant, roots and all, into a larger pot added more soil, took the soil a good few inches above the damage, after several weeks of normal care, watering, feeding etc, the plant made new roots from the stem ABOVE the plant did NOT grow as tall as the others BUT it did stay alive and the foliage looked healthier, NOT great amount of fruit6 but what was there tasted delicious, so I would have lost the plant anyway, all I did was use a little more compost and feed.
Just a thought for you IF you feel you can save the plant.
BY the way, My plants have to grow indoors / greenhouse as I don't have a long enough season hear and the correct light wont start toll maybe April.
Hope you can save the plant and this does not spread to the next plant.