A New Threat in the Vegetable Garden
Posted: November 5, 2012
Dark brown stem lesions and white powdery sporulation charactierisic of Phytophthora blight of pepper (Photo: Beth K. Gugino).
It is amazing to watch that small plant grow and become productive. Vegetable gardening is also challenging. One challenge we face here in Northeastern PA. is an abundance of diseases. As if the usual suspects including early blight, late blight, Septoria, mildew, and many others were not enough, we have a new threat to our vegetable plants. It is Phytophthora blight.
Phytophthora blight was unheard of in our area of the state just ten years ago. It is now common throughout much of the state. This disease is bad. It moves easily with water, soil, and infected fruit. On farms it has spread from field to field by tractor tires, irrigation water, infected culls discarded into the field, and storm water running from one field down to the next. It stays in the soil for 7 years or longer. Every time a plant is infected the clock starts over again. I was in several local fields this summer where the crop was lost due to Phytophthora blight. The first symptom is wilting of the entire plant, then the fruit will turn soft and a white growth will appear where the fruit touches the soil.
What can you do to prevent Phytophthora blight? First, do not bring infected fruit into your garden. When I say fruit I am referring to the fruit of the plant. For example: peppers, squash, and pumpkins are the fruit of the plant that can carry this disease. Second, do not place your garden in an area that floods. Flood waters can carry in the disease. Third, keep your soil from becoming compacted. Stay out of the garden when the soil is wet. Adding organic matter will improve drainage. If needed, use raised beds to improve water drainage even more. Finally, do not over water. Avoid having rain spouts drain into or near the garden.
Take some time to research what Phytophthora blight looks like. If you have it in your garden soil you should consider moving your garden to a new location that is uphill from your current garden.
For more information contact your local extension office. In Lackawanna County call 570-963-6842 or email LackawannaMG@psu.edu
John Esslinger, Extension Educator
Penn State Extension