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How to recognize plant disease

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010
Powdery mildew, a Biotrophic Fungus

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While the gardener hopes for disease-free plants, multitudes of organisms are ever present and merely biding their time for the appearance of the right conditions and host.

Damping-Off

Damping-off is likely the most discouraging problem for the gardener. Although it can occur any time during the growing season it generally attacks seedlings just when they seem to be getting off to a good start.

Damping-off is caused by fungi living right at the soil line where air meets the moist soil’s surface. If soil is kept continually damp the fungi attack the seedlings causing constricted stems at or immediately below the soil’s surface. The young plants fall over at the soil line and die.

Prevention is the only remedy. Allow the soil surface to dry out between waterings. If soil remains moist for a long period of time sprinkle the area around the seedlings with ground cinnamon. Cinnamon is a natural fungicide. The gardener may also make use of another natural fungicide, chamomile. Brew weak chamomile tea, let it cool and use around seedlings.

Mosaic Virus

Mosaic virus robs plants of their genetic organization, diverting energy to themselves. This virus primarily attacks summer and winter squash, gourds, cucumbers, watermelons and pumpkins although it also affects beans, peppers and tomatoes.

The virus causes abnormality in plant growth. Leaves look mottled or distorted and crinkled. They twist up or show bubbles. Often the affected plant will have leaves with yellowish spots on them. The fruit of affected cucumbers can have a variation of mottled light and dark green areas, sometimes paling almost white. Other fruit in the curcurbit family can be blanketed with warts or have skin that is faded, white and smooth. Although this virus may not kill the plant the fruit will taste so bitter that it will be inedible.

Mosaic virus overwinters in garden debris and a number of weed plants. Be sure the garden is scrupulously cleared out after the growing season and reduce or eliminate weed growth near food plants. Aphids and cucumber beetles also spread the virus when they feed from plant to plant. Eliminating these pests will go a long way toward preventing the virus from entering your garden.

Botrytis Blight

Botrytis blight or rot is a fungal disease that affects a number of vegetables and fruits. Among its host plants are asparagus, beans, beets, carrots, grapes, lettuce, onions, peppers, potatoes, raspberries, tomatoes and strawberries. The infection usually occurs when cool rainy or drizzling spring and summer weather lasts for several days. Botrytis rot can infect all parts of the plant except the roots. It appears as a mass of silver-gray spores on dead or dying plant tissue. Heavily infected plants release the spores as a dust that can be spread to other plants. The disease spreads most rapidly on wet or humid days and rain splatter also causes new infections.

As with other diseases, prevention is the best control. Inspect the plants often, watching for any infestation, blighted leaves or dead plants. Wait until the plants are dry before taking steps to sanitize them. Carry a paper bag with you when inspecting the plants. Remove infected plant material or the entire plant and place it in the bag to be thrown in the trash or burned.

Avoid overhead watering or misting which also provide favorable conditions for infection. Give plants plenty of space between them to promote good air circulation and allow the plants to dry out quickly, not giving botrytis the moist, humid conditions it needs in order to prosper.

Another fungal disease, powdery mildew, coats the leaves in dusty white or grey powder. Leaves are usually first attacked on the underside and then the mildew moves around to the top of the leaf, eventually covering the entire surface.

Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) has proven to be extremely effective as an antifungal in treating active botrytis and powdery mildew. Add 1 ounce of baking soda to 1 gallon of water and spray the solution on the affected plant. Caught early, the disease can be halted and the plant saved.

Feeding all plants with finished compost or compost ‘tea’ foliar spray helps to strengthen their immune system, allowing the plants’ own defensive structures to ward off many debilitating diseases.

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Bacterial ring rot potato disease

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

The cause of ring rot potato disease is bacterium called Clavibacter michiganense subsp. sepedonicus. It causes disease only on potatoes.

Symptoms of potato ring rot

ring-rotThe disease is called “ring rot” because the rot appears in the vascular ring of the potato tuber.
In severely cases the vascular ring is brown to black in color, often with cheesy or creamy ooze and many hollow spaces where the flesh has disintegrated.
Dry cracks can usually be found on the surface of the tubers.
In milder cases, the vascular ring may show only broken, black lines or a yellowish discoloration.
Leaves of infected with ring pot potato plants may show intervened yellowing, wilting, or no symptoms.

Getting rid of ring rot

  • TOTAL clean up and then clean all storages and potato equipment thoroughly at least once annually.
    To do this, first remove all soil and plant debris then use a recommended disinfectant.
  • When planting potatoes, use only certified disease free seed, and disinfect all between seed lots. Use cup rather than pick type planters to minimize wounding.
  • Since it is impossible to disinfect old bags use only new bags for seed.
  • If disease is found, dispose of all potatoes as soon as possible then thoroughly disinfect the premises as described previously.
  • Get rid of, or sterilize, all potentially contaminated disposables: gloves, knives, overalls, etc.
  • Practice crop rotation and do not plant potatoes in an infested field for 2 seasons.

Once a crop or farm is infested with the bacteria, the disease will carry over from year to year and spread quickly.

The potato ring rot bacteria can survive for 2 to 5 years in dried slime on the surface of machinery, crates, bins or burlap sacking, even if frozen.

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