Friday, December 16, 2011

Sample of the week: Black rot of crucifers

If you are looking forward to a nice mess of collards for Christmas or greens for the first meal of the New Year, this week’s samples are for you. We received several samples of seedlings and plants in the cabbage family that had yellow or brown yellow lesions. Some of the leaves had V-shaped lesions along the margins, while other leaves also had necrotic and blackened veins.
Black rot symptoms caused by Xanthomonas campestris pv. campestris. Note V-shaped lesions on leaf margins.

Collard leaves with blackened veins. Water droplets formed at the hydathodes can be seen along the margins of the upper leaf. Photo by Lisa Rayburn.

These symptoms are typical of black rot, a common disease of crucifers (cabbage, broccoli, kale, collards, turnips, etc.) caused by the bacterium Xanthomonas campestris pv. campestris. Bacterial ooze was visible coming out of the lesions on seedlings, supporting the black rot diagnosis.

The black rot bacterium infects plants through wounds and natural openings, such as hydathodes (water pores) found on the leaf margins. Later, the bacteria invade the vascular system and spread systemically. The disease is favored by mild, wet weather and the bacteria can rapidly spread from plant to plant in splashing rain. Bacteria can be spread when plants are handled (for example, during transplanting) and they survive on and in seed and in debris in the soil. 

Black rot is very difficult to control because it is systemic and because we have very few chemicals that are effective against bacteria.  To reduce spread, avoid cultivation or handling when plants are wet. To prevent black rot, plant clean seeds or seedlings into areas where no crucifers have been grown for 2-3 years.

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