Plant Diseases

Bacterial Wilt

Bacterial Wilt
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Incurable and always fatal, this disease is caused by various soil-borne bacteria that break down a plant’s cells, producing debris that clogs the water conducting vessels. Wilted plants may partially recover at night, making you think they simply need water—but watering won’t help. The bacteria are often spread by infected seeds or transmitted by certain insects (cucumber beetles and flea beetles, for example) during feeding. As a definitive test for bacterial wilt, cut a stem in two; put the cut ends together and squeeze, then pull the pieces apart again. If a white, mucus-like thread forms, it’s too late to save the plant, Sometimes you’ll see the telltale gummy material oozing on its own from cracks in stems and leaves. Wilt-causing bacteria can survive in the soil for many years.

Target: Many vegetables (especially cucurbits, corn, and tomato family crops), flowers, and other non-woody plants.

Damage: Plants wilt and dry up—individual leaves first, then shoots and larger branches. Young stems or vines die quickly, older ones more slowly.

Control: Resistant varieties, sanitation, controlling the insects that spread the disease, like cucumber beetles.

Notes: Remove and destroy diseased plants, then wash your hands thoroughly and disinfect all tools in a solution of nine parts water to one part bleach or rubbing alcohol.