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Bacterial Soft Rot

Bacterial Soft Rot

Soft rot occurs on most fruit and vegetables crops around the world. Rots can occur pre-or-post-harvest and result in a decline of quality and/or inedible food. Some of the most susceptible crops in South Dakota are tomatoes, peppers, and other solanaceous crops. It is important to know the symptoms of soft rot, as well as some management strategies that can be utilized to reduce re-occurrence of the problem.


There are several bacterial pathogens that can cause soft rot issues. Unlike fungal pathogens, bacteria are more contained inside the plant cells, and until symptoms of the disease are seen, they can remain undetected. Some of the most-common bacterial soft rot pathogens are Pectobacterium species and Pseudomonas species, however, there are other bacteria that can be responsible for rots.


Soft tissues of plants, such as stems (Figure 1), leaves, and fruit are all susceptible to soft rot symptoms. The most-common symptom of soft rot will be water-soaked spots on the susceptible tissue (Figure 2). As the bacterial numbers increase in the plant, starting the soft rot, the water-soaked spots will increase in size and become soft. Produce with soft rot will become mushy and discolored around the symptoms. As the infection worsens, produce may even begin to become discolored, have seepage, and also have a strong odor


There are several management strategies that can be utilized to reduce soft rot issues. As bacteria thrive in wet environments, management of irrigation can be impactful in preventing soft rot. Some irrigation strategies that can be utilized are good plant spacing to allow for air flow, watering with adequate amounts of water to keep plants healthy, ensuring that leaves and produce are drying well in-between watering events, and monitoring to see if water is standing on produce, such as where the stem attaches to the fruit/vegetable. The type of irrigation used can also be useful in management of soft rot, as sprinkler irrigation can leave standing water on plants and produce. Utilizing drip irrigation or soaker hoses will reduce leaf and produce wetness.



Photo Credit: gettyimages-adyna

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Categories: South Dakota, Crops, Fruits and Vegetables

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