Early blight is one of the most common fungal diseases that can pester your vegetable garden. While it may not be deadly, it can still weaken your crops particularly tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants.
Today, we’ll be talking about how to spot early blight and how to manage it in your garden. Let’s get started!
What is Early Blight?
Early blight is a fungal disease caused by the fungus Alternaria solani. It typically affects tomatoes and potatoes as well as eggplants, peppers, horsenettle, wild cabbage, cucumber, and zinnias.
It’s a common disease that can occur in both young and mature plants. It also affects almost all parts of a plant including the leaves, stems, and fruits. It can result in defoliation and reduced crop yields.
When plants are infected, small brown spots start to appear on more mature leaves and can quickly grow larger. As the infection progresses, a yellow halo starts to form around the lesions.
The lesions once surrounded by a yellow halo, then forms a “bulls-eye” pattern. When these lesions merge, it can kill entire leaves on your plants. Early blight spores can also spread to other parts of the plant, producing dark bruises.
While early blight may not be fatal for plants, the stress it causes can weaken plants. It causes defoliation which makes plants susceptible to sun-scald.
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How Does Early Blight Spread
The Alternaria solani fungus is often present where host plants grow. The spores can survive in old plant debris as well as in the soil. They thrive in moist environments with warm temperatures and can persist in partially decomposed garden waste.
They’re typically spread by wind and rain. They can also spread through flea beetles. Plus, the spores can be transmitted to seeds and show up in transplanted seedlings.
Early blight symptoms on older leaves start out as brown spots with concentric yellow rings. Surrounding leaf areas may turn yellow and the affected leaves will eventually die prematurely.
Lesions can also start to appear on stems. These spots start off small, dark, and slightly sunken. As they get larger, these can elongate and concentric markings also start to appear. Spots on the lower stems can cause collar rot which affects the yield of your plants.
Tomatoes affected by early blight exhibit dark, leathery, and sunken spots on the fruit with concentric rings. These appear at the stem end of both green and ripe tomatoes.
Meanwhile, infected seedlings will have dark spots on their leaves. The stems will also have dark spots and will be girdled.
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Management and Control
Early blight is a very common problem especially with tomato plants which means you may not be able to avoid it completely. However, there are measures that you can use to keep it under control:
- Choose resistant plant varieties. Some tomato varieties exhibit resistance to the damage caused by the early blight fungus. Note, however, that no variety is completely immune.
- Provide plenty of air circulation. Give your plants plenty of space for better airflow. This can help keep them dry and discourage spore growth.
- Keep Your garden clean and tidy. Sanitation is key to keeping your plants safe from early blight. Clean up garden beds at the end of the season to prevent spores from overwintering.
- Rotate Crops. If an outbreak occurs in one area of your garden, find another spot to plant your tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, or eggplant next season. You can also try container gardening.
- Use organic fungicides. Apply copper-based fungicides or sulfur sprays one to two weeks before early blight typically appears in your garden. You can also apply it a couple of weeks before your rainy season kicks in.
In short, to control early blight, make sure to always thoroughly check your plants. Use organic fungicides and make sure your garden beds are clean and tidy to keep the plants safe from early blight.
Have you found other ways to prevent or treat early blight on your plants? If so, please leave them in the comments below.
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