Vegetable Fungus Disease
I'm not discussing IF it's coming, I telling you that if
you grow plants in Texas IT IS COMING!
The "it" to which I am referring is fungus disease.
Vegetables can and will be infected by disease-causing organisms.
In plants, these organisms may produce leaf spots, wilt, yellow
leaves, stem, fruit and root rots. The symptoms expressed
by the plant are a signal that either an organism is infecting
the plant and causing disease or other factors in the environment
have injured the plant. Few gardeners in Texas have escaped
the disastrous symptoms on tomato plants universally described
as "the leaves on my tomato plants are turning yellow
and dying from the bottom of the plant moving upward. Last
year this "blight" killed my entire plant!"
Plant disease is the result of living organisms such as
fungi or bacteria infecting the plant tissue and disrupting
normal functions carried on in the plant. The organisms infecting
the plant can multiply and spread the disease within the plant
and/or to other healthy plants.
Damage caused by non-living factors such as weather, air
pollution and chemicals is not contagious and does not spread
unless the source of the problem persists in the area of the
Three things MUST be present for plant disease to occur:
1) a disease-causing organism, 2) a susceptible plant and
3) an environment suitable for the organism to infect the
plant and multiply in.
What are these organisms that cause plant disease?
Fungi are actually simple plants without true leaves, stems
or roots. They grow in thread-like forms and produce minute
'seeds' called spores. These spores can be carried by wind,
water, animals, tools or machinery (even clothing) to other
parts of the same plant, as well as to healthy plants. Under
favorable conditions, the spores infect plant tissue and produce
new fungus structures.
Plants react to fungi and other disease-causing organisms
in much the same way the human body does. The infected tissue
may release substances to ward off the organisms or to kill
the plant tissue itself, leaving no food for the organism
to live on. In some instances, plants produce swollen 'bubbles'
inside their vessels to stop the spread of the fungus.
These defense reactions, in addition to toxic substances
secreted by the fungi itself, cause the brown spots, yellow
tissues, wilting and other symptoms of disease. When the fungus
is able to produce spores and spread to other parts of the
plant, the damage it causes begins to interfere with normal
plant functions and death or production losses occur.
A number of diseases attack the foliage and fruit of vegetables.
Controlling diseases that are caused by fungi differ from
insect control techniques in that fungus problems must be
prevented rather than cured. Prophylactic remedies are justified.
When a gardener sees a fungus problem, irreversible damage
already has been done. Cloudy, damp mornings encourage the
growth of fungus spores.
Each spring, gardeners become extremely disturbed about
leaves on tomato plants dying. Every year, it’s the
same old story. Plants are beautiful, loaded with fruit and
growing like mad. Then, disaster! The leaves begin turning
yellow and dying at the bottom of the plant. The sickening
disorder slowly moves up the plant until nothing remains except
the green frame of stems with small, green shriveling fruit.
This is not a horror story; this is an annual reality for
There are two main diseases which cause this disaster every
spring. Early blight (Alternaria) and Septoria leaf spot are
the culprits. Early blight is characterized by irregular brown
spots appear first on older foliage. With age, the spots show
concentric rings forming a target pattern. A yellow, diffuse
zone is formed around each spot. Although this fungus disease
can be observed throughout the year, it is most common during
the fruiting period. The more tomatoes a plant produces, the
more susceptible to and disastrous are the effects of an early
The fungus is susceptible to high humidity
and high temperatures. Even if rainy weather is not prevalent,
morning dews provide sufficient moisture to support the occurrence
of the fungus. The only control is prevention, which begins
when the plant begins setting fruit. During periods of high
humidity, which includes most of the spring, apply a fungicide
weekly. The best fungicide to use is one containing chlorothalonil
(Ortho Daconil, Fertilome Broad Spectrum Liquid Fungicide,
HiYield Daconil, Rigo Lawn & Garden Fungicide, or Fung-onil Multipurpose Fungicide).
Peppers and potatoes can be destroyed by the same diseases,
so when you are spraying your tomatoes, share a little protection
with your peppers and potatoes. Peppers also suffer from bacterial
diseases that cause rapid leaf drop if infection occurs. As
a preventive measure, streptomycin (1 teaspoon per gallon
of Agri-Strep) or Kocide 101 can be added to the previously
mentioned products. These can be applied to most vegetables.
Follow label instructions.
For photographs of the effects of these diseases on tomato leaves, visit the InterNet site:
Early blight of tomatoes and peppers is characterized by irregular, brown spots that first appear on older foliage.
With age, the spots show concentric rings forming a target pattern. A yellow, diffuse zone is formed around each spot.
Although this fungus disease can be observed throughout the year, it is most common during the fruiting period.
The more tomatoes and peppers a plant produces, the more susceptible to and disastrous are the effects of an early blight infection.
The fungus is favored by high humidity and high temperatures. The ONLY control is PREVENTION which begins when the plant is transplanted.
During periods of high humidity, which includes most of the spring, apply a fungicide weekly after tomato fruit is formed.
The best fungicide to use is one containing chlorothalonil (Daconil).
There is no proven organic cure/prevention (corn meal, vinegar, mouth wash, Epson salt, garlic juice, etc.) which controls/prevents Early Blight (Alternera).
For “A Guide to the Identification of Common Problems -- Tomato Disorders” , see: