Gardening Articles: Care :: Pests & Problems

Diseases of Eggplant , Pepper, and Okra

by National Gardening Association Editors


Bacterial spot on pepper leaves.

Peppers, eggplant, and okra are troubled by a few diseases, especially in the South. Peppers and eggplant are related to tomatoes, so they're susceptible to many tomato diseases as well as some of their own.

Disease Prevention

Keep plants healthy. This starts with soil that is rich in humus, drains well, and has ample nutrients. Amend soil regularly with compost and apply organic mulches continually to enrich your soil. Test soil samples for nutrient levels and pH, and make necessary adjustments. Apply only as much fertilizer as you need, since excess can cause growth imbalances that weaken plants and invite disease. Cull plants that are diseased to prevent pathogens from spreading.

Plant disease-resistant varieties. Look for varieties of peppers, eggplant, and okra that are resistant to wilts and other diseases. Disease resistance is noted in seed catalogs and seed packets. If you purchase seedlings, ask nursery staff to point out their disease-resistant stock.

Control pests. Keep a close watch for pests, especially aphids and leafhoppers, which can spread diseases as they feed. Their feeding can also create entry points for rot organisms. Also, plants that are weakened by pests are more susceptible to disease.

Weed your garden. If you allow weeds to get our of hand in your garden, the competition for nutrients and moisture can weaken crop plants, leaving them susceptible to infection. Crowding also reduces air circulation, allowing moisture to remain on plants long enough to allow fungal and bacterial pathogens to infect plants. (Though you may be tempted to keep the area surrounding your garden mowed, a diverse array of plants in your yard invites beneficial organisms that help control pests.)

Water judiciously. Water-stressed and overwatered plants are vulnerable to disease. Since pathogens spread more rapidly among wet plants, drip irrigation is the most efficient way to water. It doesn't moisten leaves and stems, saves water, and puts it in the root zone where plants need it. If you do use overhead sprinklers, water during the early morning so your plants have time to dry before nightfall. Also, stay out of the garden when it's wet to avoid spreading disease yourself!

Rotate crops. Since some diseases are soilborne, planting crop families in different beds each year improves their chances of avoiding problems and reduces the amount of the pathogen in the soil. A three-year rotation with other plant families is recommended.

Manage crop residues. If plants are healthy, spade or till plant residue into the soil, or add it to your compost heap. This clean-up work helps by removing overwintering spots for pests, and the addition of organic matter improves the soil. If plants suffered disease, it's better to burn the plant residue or bury it in a spot far from the garden.

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