Thursday, October 6, 2016

Bacterial Wilt in Tomatoes

Photo courtesy of University of Florida IFAS

Although Bacterial Wilt is said to be a prevalent problem in the Southeast and Florida, we had not experienced it in the VegHeadz Demo garden until this past growing season.  Tomatoes in one raised bed would suddenly wilt -- the whole plant -- and soon die.  The problem was immediately diagnosed by our supervising Extension Agent, Trevor Hylton.  Glenn Berman is the coordinator for that bed, a square foot garden, and he felt challenged to find a solution.  After researching the problem he determined there is not much to be done about the problem, as it is resistant to treatment, and infects the soil in the bed for many years.  See more including identification pictures at:    Bacterial Wilt of Tomato - IFAS

The only solution is to grow varieties of  tomatoes (as well as peppers, eggplant, potatoes, etc., - members of the Salonaceae family) which are bred to be resistant to bacterial wilt.  Glenn located three varieties that were advertised by their sellers to be resistant.  He planted them in the same spot as the tomatoes which had succumbed to the disease.  Only one variety has survived so far - Kewalo.  Glenn planted two of this variety which he had grown from seed, and both are surviving and beginning to bloom. 

This brings to the fore a caution about interpreting and relying on descriptions of plants when you buy seeds or seedlings.  Words like "tolerant of" and "resistant to" don't necessarily mean the plant will be free of disease when grown in an infected location. 

Below is a list of the varieties Glenn grew and the exact description of each provided in the seed catalogs of the companies where he bought them.

Tropic Boy - Evergreen Seeds

"Tropic Boy is a hybrid tomato developed by Takii Seed Company in Japan. Plants are indeterminate and produce large size fruits, 220 grams in weight, with green shouldered and turn to red when matured. This variety is vigorous grower, 6-7 loculi and 5-6 fruits per cluster. Fruits have tough skin and firm meat and crack free, suitable for long distance shipping.  The plant is high tolerant to Bacterial wilt, Fusarium, Nematode and Stemphylium attacks. Very good for tropical area productions."

Neptune - Southern Exposure Seed

"An early- to mid-season fresh market tomato specially bred for heat tolerance and resistance to bacteria wilt which is prevalent in the Southeast and Florida.  Recommended for gardeners and market growers in hot, humid, rainy growing regions where it is difficult to grow tomatoes.  4-oz. red fruits in clusters of 2-4 on short vines.  (67 days determinate)"

Kewalo – Tomato Growers Supply

"This round, red tomato from the University of Hawaii is tolerant to both nematodes and bacterial wilt, serious problems in tropical and sub-tropical climates. It is the only open-pollinated variety we know of that can boast of these traits. While it is well suited for the tropics, it is well adapted to more temperate areas also. Determinate. 78 days."


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