Category Archives: Disease – Specialty Crop

Plant Diseases to Watch For in 2021

Septoria Leaf Spot Septoria Leaf Spot and Early Blight
Host:  Tomato
Pathogens:   Septoria lycopersici and Alternaria solani
Signs/Symptoms:  Spotting and eventual total collapse of leaves working from the bottom of the plant up
For more information see:       UW Plant Disease Facts D0100/46
Late Blight Late Blight
Hosts:  Tomato, potato
Pathogen:   Phytophthora infestans
Signs/Symptoms:  Water-soaked spots on leaves, leathery areas on tomato fruits, rapid plant death
For more information see:       UW Plant Disease Facts D0068
Septoria Leaf Spot of Lilac Septoria Leaf Spot of Lilac
Host:  Lilac
Pathogen:   Septoria sp.
Signs/Symptoms:  Dead spots on leaves, potentially leading to complete leaf browning
Rhizosphaera Needle Cast Rhizosphaera Needle Cast
Hosts:  Colorado blue spruce, other spruces
Pathogen:   Rhizosphaera kalkhoffii
Signs/Symptoms:  Browning/purpling of interior needles of lower branches, followed by needle drop
For more information see:       UW Plant Disease Facts D0093
Gymnosporangium Rusts
Hosts:  Juniper, apple, crabapple, hawthorn, quince
Pathogen:   Gymnosporangium spp.
Signs/Symptoms:  Brown blobs with orange gelatinous masses (juniper); yellow/orange leaf spots (other hosts)
For more information see:       UW Plant Disease Facts D0058
Elderberry Rust
Hosts:  Elderberry
Pathogen:   Puccinia sambuci
Signs/Symptoms:  Light yellow, powdery growths on branches
For more information see:       UW Plant Disease Facts D0049
Scab Scab (Apple and Pear)
Hosts:   Apple, crabapple, pear, mountain-ash
Pathogens:   Venturia inaequalis, Venturia pirina
Signs/Symptoms:  Feathery-edged spots on leaves and fruits often leading to leaf loss and tree defoliation
For more information see:       UW Plant Disease Facts D0004
Bur Oak Blight
Host:   Bur oak
Pathogen:   Tubakia iowensis
Signs/Symptoms:  Wedge-shaped dead areas on leaves leading to dead leaves that stay attached to trees
Powdery Mildew
Hosts:   Herbaceous and woody ornamentals, fruits, vegetables, turf
Pathogens:   Miscellaneous powdery mildew fungi
Signs/Symptoms:  Powdery white growth on leaves
For more information see:       UW Plant Disease Facts D0084/86/87
Diplodia Shoot Blight and Canker
Hosts:  Austrian pine, other pines
Pathogen:   Diplodia spp.
Signs/Symptoms:  Dieback of branch tips with dead needles showing uneven lengths
For more information see:       UW Plant Disease Facts D0042
Boxwood Blight
Host:  Boxwood
Pathogen:   Calonectria pseudonaviculata
Signs/Symptoms:  Circular, brown leaf spots followed by leaf drop and shrub death
For more information see:       UW Plant Disease Facts D0023

For more information on plant diseases to watch for:  See https://pddc.wisc.edu/ or contact your county Extension agent.

Ten Common Plant Diseases/Disorders You Can Diagnose by Eye

Powdery Mildew Powdery Mildew
Hosts:   Herbaceous and woody ornamentals, fruits, vegetables, turf
Pathogens:   Miscellaneous powdery mildew fungi
Signs/Symptoms:  Powdery white growth on leaves
For more information see:       UW Plant Disease Facts D0084/86/87
Tar Spot - Ten Common Plant Diseases Tar Spot
Hosts:  Maples
Pathogen:   Rhytisma spp.
Signs/Symptoms:  Tarry areas (either solid spots or clusters of small spots) on leaves
For more information see:       UW Plant Disease Facts D0110
Peach Leaf Curl Peach Leaf Curl
Hosts:  Peach
Pathogen:   Taphrina deformans
Signs/Symptoms:  Light-green, yellow or purplish-red puckered areas on leaves
For more information see:       UW Plant Disease Facts D0076
Sooty Mold Sooty Mold
Hosts:  Any plant
Pathogen:   Miscellaneous sooty mold fungi
Signs/Symptoms:  Powdery black growth on leaves or needles
For more information see:       UW Bulletin A2637
Chlorosis Chlorosis
Hosts:  Oak, red maple
Cause:   Iron or manganese deficiency, often induced by high soil pH
Signs/Symptoms:  Yellow leaves with dark green veins
For more information see:       UW Plant Disease Facts D0030
Gymnosporangium Rusts Gymnosporangium Rusts
Hosts:  Juniper, apple, crabapple, hawthorn, quince
Pathogen:   Gymnosporangium spp.
Signs/Symptoms:  Brown blobs with orange gelatinous masses (juniper); yellow/orange leaf spots (other hosts)
For more information see:       UW Plant Disease Facts D0058
Black Knot Black Knot
Hosts:  Prunus spp. (plum and cherry)
Pathogen:   Apiosporina morbosa
Signs/Symptoms:  Black poop-like growths on branches
For more information see:       UW Plant Disease Facts D0018
Elderberry Rust Elderberry Rust
Hosts:  Elderberry
Pathogen:   Puccinia sambuci
Signs/Symptoms:  Light yellow, powdery growths on branches
For more information see:       UW Plant Disease Facts D0049
Golden Canker Golden Canker
Hosts:  Pagoda dogwood
Pathogen:   Cryptodiaporthe corni
Signs/Symptoms:  Gold-colored branches with orange spots
For more information see:       UW Plant Disease Facts D0055
Dog Vomit Slime Mold Dog Vomit Slime Mold
Hosts:  Any plant and on mulch
Cause:   Fuligo septica
Signs/Symptoms:  Scrambled egg-like masses on mulch or at the base of plants
For more information see:       UW Plant Disease Facts D0102

For more information on common plant diseases:  See https://pddc.wisc.edu/ or contact your county Extension agent.

Tobacco Mosaic

Tobacco mosaic causing a blotchy light and dark coloring (mosaic) of tobacco leaves.
Tobacco mosaic causing a blotchy light and dark coloring (mosaic) of tobacco leaves.

What is tobacco mosaic?  Tobacco mosaic is a common viral disease of worldwide distribution that affects over 200 species of herbaceous and, to a lesser extent, woody plants.  Common hosts include tobacco, solanaceous vegetables (e.g., pepper, tomato) and vining vegetables (e.g., cucumber, melon, squash), as well as a wide range of ornamentals (e.g., begonia, coleus, geranium, impatiens, million bells, petunia).  The disease has its biggest impact on vegetables, where it can reduce yield and affect quality to the point that commercial crops cannot be marketed.

What does tobacco mosaic look like?  Symptoms of tobacco mosaic vary in type and severity depending on the plant infected, plant age, the variant of the virus involved, and environmental conditions.  On leaves, typical symptoms include blotchy light and dark areas (called mosaic); cupping, curling, elongation (strapping), roughening, wrinkling and other growth distortions; and smaller than normal size.  Fruits may have a blotchy color, ripen unevenly, be malformed or have an off flavor.  Entire infected plants are often stunted.  Other viral diseases like cucumber mosaic (see UW Plant Disease Facts D0036, Cucumber Mosaic) can cause symptoms similar to tobacco mosaic.  Often, multiple viral diseases can simultaneously affect a single plant.  Certain herbicide exposures (see UW Plant Disease Facts D0060, Herbicide Damage), nutrient deficiencies or toxicities, high temperature and even insect feeding can also cause similar symptoms.  Proper diagnosis of tobacco mosaic requires lab testing.

Where does tobacco mosaic come from?  Tobacco mosaic is caused by Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV), the first virus ever identified.  Numerous variants (strains) of the virus have subsequently been described.  TMV survives in infected plants (including viable seeds), as well as in debris from these plants.  Plant-based products (most notoriously tobacco products) can harbor the virus.  TMV is very stable and can survive for long periods of time; there are reports of TMV surviving and remaining infectious after 50 years in storage at 40°F.  Because of its stability, TMV can survive on and be picked up from hands, clothing, gardening tools, work surfaces and any other object (e.g., door knobs) that gardeners may handle.

TMV is highly transmissible and is commonly spread by handling infected plants, then healthy plants.  Spread via gardening tools is also very common.  No specific insects spread TMV (the way that aphids spread Cucumber mosaic virus).  However, bees and chewing insects (e.g., grasshoppers) can transmit TMV through casual contact or their feeding as they move from plant to plant.

Leaf growth distortions caused by tobacco mosaic.
Leaf growth distortions caused by tobacco mosaic.

How do I save a plant with tobacco mosaic?  There is no cure for tobacco mosaic.  Once infected, plants remain infected for life, and typically the virus spreads throughout the plant from the point of infection.  Infected plants and any associated debris should be burned (where allowed by local ordinance) or double-bagged and disposed of in a landfill.  DO NOT compost plants with this disease.  Thoroughly decontaminate any items that have come into contact with infected plants or their debris by treating them for a minimum of one minute with:

  • 2.75 tablespoons Alconox® (a lab detergent) plus 2.5 tablespoons sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), also known as sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS), in one gallon of water, or
  • 14 dry ounces of trisodium phosphate in one gallon of water.

These ingredients can be ordered on the internet.  If you decide to use SLS (SDS), be sure to wear gloves, safety goggles and a dust mask, and mix the solution in a well-ventilated area as SLS (SDS) is a known skin and eye irritant.  Once treated, rinse items with sufficient water to remove any residues.  Also, thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water, and launder any clothing that you wore while disposing of infected plants and debris.

How do I avoid problems with tobacco mosaic virus in the future?  Inspect plants prior to purchase for any symptoms of tobacco mosaic, and DO NOT buy symptomatic plants.  Purchase seed from a reputable supplier that routinely inspects their seed-producing plants for symptoms of viral (and other) diseases.  If you use tobacco products, DO NOT use them around plants.  Also, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water prior to handling plants, and consider wearing freshly laundered clothing when gardening.  Finally, decontaminate (as described above) any items that might harbor TMV to help prevent spread.  Even if you do not use tobacco products, routine handwashing and decontamination of gardening tools and other items can help prevent tobacco mosaic from being a problem.

For more information on tobacco mosaic:  Contact your county Extension agent.

Herbicide Damage

What is herbicide damage?  Herbicide damage is any adverse, undesired effect on a plant that is caused by exposure of that plant to a pesticide designed for weed control (i.e., an herbicide).  Any plant can be subject to this problem.

Squash leaf distorted due to exposure to a common lawn herbicide.
Squash leaf distorted due to exposure to a common lawn herbicide.

What does herbicide damage look like?  Symptoms of herbicide damage vary depending upon the plant affected and the herbicide used.  Common symptoms include stems that are flattened, or that twist or corkscrew.  Leaves may have abnormal shapes, sizes or textures.  In addition, leaves or leaf veins may yellow or redden.  In severe cases, plants may brown and die.  Some plants, such as tomatoes and grapes, are particularly susceptible to herbicide damage and can be used as indicators of unwanted herbicide exposure.

How does herbicide damage occur?  Herbicide damage results when an herbicide is misapplied.  Herbicides for control of broadleaf weeds are occasionally applied with fertilizers as part of a lawn care program.  If these products are applied too close to ornamentals or vegetables, or are applied when there is too much wind, then the herbicide can drift (move) from the area of application into a non-treated area.  Often, drifting herbicides are difficult to detect by eye because they are extremely fine mists.  They can better be detected by smell.  Some herbicides readily produce vapors that can begin to drift several hours after application.

How do I save a plant that has been damaged by herbicides?  There is nothing you can do after plants have been exposed.  However, most plants accidentally exposed to broadleaf herbicides applied with lawn fertilizers do not receive a high enough dose to kill them.  Young growth exposed to the herbicide will be distorted and discolored, but subsequent growth will be normal.

How do I avoid problems with herbicide damage in the future?  When using a lawn herbicide, follow the application directions exactly.  DO NOT apply the product too close to, or in a manner that will cause exposure to, non-target ornamentals or vegetables.  To avoid drift, apply the herbicide when there is as little wind as possible (< 5 mph).  Apply the herbicide at low pressure to minimize production of fine mists.  Finally, use amine forms rather than ester forms of herbicides as amine forms are less likely to produce vapors.

For more information on herbicide damage:  See UW Bulletin A3286, Plant Injury Due to Turfgrass Broadleaf Weed Herbicides (available at https://learningstore.extension.wisc.edu/), or contact your county Extension agent.