If you grow apples, cherries, kiwifruit, mulberries, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums, or walnuts, you need to know about bacterial blight.
Bacterial blight is not the same thing as common bacterial blight, which attacks legumes. To make matters worse, many people call another bean variety of blight ‘bacterial blight’. I know, it gets confusing. Let’s see if we can clarify some of this.
The cause of bacterial blight
Bacterial blight, also known as blossom blight or shoot blight, is caused by a bacterium called Pseudomonas syringae. There are over 50 different strains of this bacteria that cause plant disease. Common examples include bacterial canker, bacterial speck, citrus blast, and halo blight. Pseudomonas syringae is commonly found on the exterior surfaces of healthy plants. It is only when bacteria get inside, through wounds or natural openings, that the trouble starts.
Bacterial blight symptoms
Like the other diseases caused by this pathogen, the first symptom is water-soaked areas on leaves. These areas turn brown and mushy and often have yellow halos. If these spots occur early in a leaf’s development, leaf curling and twisting may also occur. Leaves may also start dying from the outer edge, with the infection moving inward toward the center. Twigs may exhibit black streaks, and it is common for infected blossoms, branch tips, and leaves to die. If infected twigs develop a shepherd’s crook shape, it’s probably fireblight.
Managing bacterial blight
Pseudomonas syringae is most commonly spread by wind and rain. Insects and your garden tools can also be part of the problem. You have to assume that the disease is present. These bacteria can survive in diseased plants, infected plant debris, and soil.
Once a plant is infected, you can try to save it by trimming 10 to 12 inches below infected areas, making sure to disinfect your pruners between each cut. You can dip them in a 10% bleach solution for 30 seconds, though bleach is hard on tools. You can also use bathroom cleaner or other spray disinfectants that contain at least 70% alcohol. Just be sure to give it a few minutes to work before making another cut. Infected plant material should be bagged and thrown in the trash right away.
Prevention is easier. To prevent bacterial blight from taking hold in your landscape, use these tips:
Fixed copper sprays may also help.
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!
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