How to succeed at tomato bacterial wilt treatment

Tomato bacterial wilt treatment is one of the hardest challenges as a tomato farmer. Bacterial wilt is a significant and dangerous disease in tomatoes. Once your crops get it, they are hard to treat. The bacteria causing bacterial is Ralstonia solanacearum.

You can manage tomato bacterial wilt treatment using a combination of techniques. You have to use good cultural practices such as hygiene, get good seeds, and cut movement around the farm. You can also use biocontrol methods or chemical treatment. 

Biological control of bacterial wilt

Biological control agents are organisms that kill other disease-causing organisms. Biocontrol agents are great because they reduce the dependence on environment-harming chemicals.  There is a strong push towards environment-friendly methods of killing pathogens and pests. But,  there aren’t any methods available. Research is ongoing and there will be better methods available soon.

Some researchers found that some bacteria can increase tomato resistance to bacterial wilt. An example is Bacillus thurigensis. Other bacteria like Acinetobacter are also effective against bacterial wilt. You should talk to your local specialist to advise you on which biocontrol agents are available and will work in your area.

Biological control offers the following benefits:

1) potentially self-sustaining

2) spread on their own after initial establishment

3) reduced input of non-renewable resources

4) long-term disease suppression without affecting the environment.

Resistant cultivars

Ask your local seed vendor for resistant varieties. Resistant varieties reduce the need for chemicals or other interventions. However, researchers have shown that yield and quality go down as the resistance to bacterial wilt in many crops goes up. Thus, you may have to wait longer for resistant cultivars. The ones in production have been rejected by farmers due to low yield and quality.

Resistant cultivars are expected in the future through stronger efforts in biotechnology. Scientists can now enhance bacterial wilt resistance to improve yield.

Crop rotation and multi-cropping

You can also rotate your crops, after each season, with crops from other families. For example, after harvesting tomatoes, you can plant corn. The benefits of crop rotation are:

  1. You maintain the soil structure and organic matter
  2. You also reduce soil erosion. Soil erosion happens in large farms because of planting crops in rows.
  3. With crop rotation, you also lower the risk of plant diseases caused by pathogens in the soil. These pathogens feed on require specific. So when you take those plants and rotate them with another family of crops, the pathogens starve and die.

Researchers recommend that you grow tomatoes after crops like corn or cowpeas. Rotating crops delays the onset of bacterial wilt by 1 or 3 weeks. It also reduced the wilt severity by 20–26%.

Soil amendment

This might come as a surprise to you but fertilizers also reduce cases of bacterial wilt. They make the plant strong and healthy. Healthy plants can defend themselves better against diseases. Also, calcium (Ca) is the most well-known fertilizer to suppress disease. High calcium levels reduce the severity of bacterial wilt. It also reduces the population of R. solanacearum in the stems of the tomato.

Chemical control of bacterial wilt

Chemical control of bacterial wilt uses a family of chemicals called bactericides. These are chemicals that kill bacteria. Before choosing which chemicals to use, you must seek guidance from professionals. You should also follow the instructions on the packages. These chemicals can poison the crops, soil, and water sources you use. Not only that, but some of these chemicals remain in the soil years after their application.

Research has shown that you can combine chloropicrin with any of the following pesticides:

  1. methyl bromide,
  2. 1,3-dichloropropene
  3. metam sodium,

to reduce bacterial wilt in the field. These chemicals increase resistance to bacterial wilt. As a result, the yield also increased.

Chemicals that have the least effect on the environment are not cheap. It only makes sense to use them on very high-value crops. You want a situation where the cost of the chemicals pales in comparison to the value of the crop.

When the plants are healthy, you get better yields and quality. Even without needing treatment. Thus, you have to consider whether the cost of the chemicals will not eat into your bottom line.

Also Read: How to identify tomato bacterial wilt symptoms fast

Environmental (abiotic) and biological (biotic) factors

Plant diseases caused by soil-borne pathogens depend on many factors. Such factors include nutrient (organic matter and minerals) conditions, soil type, and pH. Not to forget anaerobic conditions, temperature, and moisture content. These are abiotic factors. They influence the development of R. solanacearum in soil, as described above.

Biotic factors are related to microorganisms, flora, fauna in the soil, and plants that can affect R. solanacearum.

These biotic factors, mentioned above, suppress pathogens by:

  1. Enhancing microbial activity to suppress R. solanacearum,
  2. Releasing antibiotics
  3. Enhancing competition with the harmful bacteria or fungi
  4. Decrease the risk of pathogens multiplying rapidly in the plant or soil
  5. Improving plant resistance to disease
  6. Protecting the plants against pathogens
  7. Preventing contact between pathogens and the host crops.

Summary

In summary, tomato bacterial wilt treatment is not an easy task. No one strategy on its own can control bacterial wilt with 100% efficiency. Those chemicals commonly used are costly, harm the environment, and have since shown little efficiency in managing the disease. You are better off combining the use of chemicals, biocontrol, cultural practices, and using resistant cultivars. This is integrated pest management.

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