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Tomato and eggplant samples dropped off to our office the first week of July were first checked out for the usual suspects: Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus (TSWV) and bacterial wilt.
And that’s what we found – TSWV symptoms on one tomato sample, and bacterial wilt on the eggplant and a second tomato plant. These are both difficult disease problems to deal with, but I suppose if I had my pick I might go with TSWV. That’s because the bacterial pathogen, Ralstonia solanacearum, is soil-borne and very persistent. TSWV is just as devastating, but is spread by seasonal flights of thrips and does not persist in the soil. For home gardeners, TSWV management centers on use of TSWV-resistant varieties; removal of infected plants; and better management of winter weeds which can serve as a safe harbor for both the thrips and the virus. For more information on TSWV, see the recent article posted on the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Pamlico County Center website.
The primary management strategy for bacterial wilt is rotation. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and Irish potatoes should not be planted back into that site for at least 3-4 years. I was surprised to learn from a Clemson information note that cosmos and sunflowers are also susceptible and should be kept out during the rotation period. During this time, find another garden site completely separate from the problem garden, and avoid moving directly back and forth from the old garden to the new garden as you can transport the pathogen on your shoes or garden equipment. Do not accept transplants of susceptible species from someone else’s garden, as you could be introducing the pathogen to your site.
See images below for symptoms of these disease problems and a simple screening test for bacterial wilt.
These odd patterns on tomato foliage – or on the fruit – provide strong evidence of Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus infection. Possibly, ancient writings by Hobbits or Elves; but most likely TSWV.
Symptomatic of bacterial wilt infection on eggplant; water-conducting tissues have become clogged and darkened by the rapidly multiplying bacteria.
Bacterial streaming from a couple of pieces of eggplant stem. This is solid evidence of bacterial wilt.
A short video of the streaming, shot by Craven 4-H agent Ashley Brooks.