Bacterial soft rot destroys more crops than any other bacterial disease.
Commonly occurring in cruciferous, cucurbit, nightshade, and onion families, bacterial soft rot also causes severe pitting in carrots.
Rather than a single disease with a simple cause, bacterial soft rot refers to a collective of bacterial rots caused by Dickeya dadantii (previously known as Erwinia chrysanthemi), Pectobacterium carotovorum, and various Bacillus, Clostridium, and Pseudomonas bacteria. Whichever critter starts this problem, the soft tissues of buds, bulbs, corms, petioles, rhizomes, stems, and tubers are liquified and your crop turns to mush.
Symptoms of bacterial soft rot
Like other bacterial diseases, bacterial soft rot is easily overlooked at first. As the disease progresses, water spots start to form on soft tissues. Unlike the whitish splash marks left on old wooden furniture, these spots grow larger, softer, and start to sink. As interior tissues break down, these damaged areas may ooze and start changing color. Discolorations can range from cream to black. And they smell bad.
Bacterial soft rot management
Poor drainage, waterlogged soil, and insufficient airflow all set the stage for bacterial soft rot. Infected plants must be destroyed and removed. Prevention is worth the effort. The following good cultural practices can significantly reduce the likelihood of bacterial soft rot affecting your plants:
• Use certified clean seeds and seedlings.
• Quarantine and harden off new plants.
• Install resistant varieties.
• Plant at the appropriate times and correct depths.
• Use recommended plant density.
• Monitor plants regularly for signs of infection.
• Provide adequate airflow through proper pruning.
• Irrigate properly, allowing the soil to dry out between waterings.
• Employ crop rotation to reduce overwintering bacteria.
• Remove weeds.
• Avoid working crops when they are wet.
• Remove infected plants and dispose of them in the trash.
• Clean and disinfect tools regularly.
If bacterial soft rot continues to be a problem in specific areas of your garden, use that space for plants that are generally not susceptible. That list includes beets, corn, and snap beans.
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!
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