Weeks of wet weather in Louisiana and SE Texas has led to damage from one of the most serious diseases of crops such as tomatoes, eggplant, and bell peppers.
LSU AgCenter plant doctor Raj Singh said the disease is called southern bacterial wilt and is caused by the soil-borne bacterium Ralstonia solanacearum. “In addition to solanaceous vegetables, the bacterium can cause disease in a wide range of ornamentals,” Singh said. “The pathogen is spread within fields by the movement of infested soil, in surface water and though the handling of infected plants.”
Infected plants rapidly wilt due to loss of turgidity of leaves and stems, giving the plants a limp appearance. Initially, these plants may recover overnight, but as the disease develops, rapid drying of the foliage occurs leading to permanent wilting and death of the plant. Brown, sunken cankers are often visible at the base of the plant near the soil line. Symptomatic plants exhibit discoloration of the vascular system and the pith.
Managing southern bacterial wilt in soils previously infected with the bacterium presents a real challenge. “There are no effective chemicals registered for commercial as well as home growers,” Singh said.
Commercial, as well as home growers, must follow good sanitation practices to reduce the spread of the disease including avoiding movement of infested soils, avoiding the movement of stakes from known infested sites to new sites and proper cleaning of tools.
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