Bacterial Leaf Spot Identification, Management, and Prevention

What Is Bacterial Leaf Spot?

Bacterial leaf spot is bacteria that infect injured plants.  It can survive for years on infested seeds and in infested plant debris and weeds.  It can also survive for a short duration in the soil.

How Do I Know If I Have Bacterial Leaf Spot?

Damage.  There are several telltale signs that Bacterial Leaf Spot may be infecting your plants.  Here’s what to look for.

Water-soaked leaf spots

Small dark specks on the leaves of the plant visible on both the top and the bottom.

Reddish brown spots.

Brown spots with yellow halos.

Cankers on the stems of the plant.

Leaves turn yellow and drop.

How to Get Rid of Bacterial Leaf Spot

Bacterial leaf spot is difficult to control with commercial methods, but copper fungicides are toxic to some strains.  Commercial plant activators work to help induce systemic acquired resistance.

Can I Get Rid of Bacterial Leaf Spot Naturally?

Remove infected plants at the first sign of infection before it has a chance to spread.

There are natural products on the market that contain biological agents that work to enhance a plant’s health to help resist infection.  These biological agents are also used to compete with plant pathogens. For example, Serenade contains a strain of bacillus subtilis, which are beneficial bacteria.

Can I Prevent Bacterial Leaf Spot?

Infected seed is a major cause of the pathogen being introduced into the garden.  Use only disease-free seeds and transplants.

Bacteria spread when plants are wet. Proper irrigation can help to control its spread.  Use drip irrigation rather than overhead spraying that will cause splashing and increase the likelihood of passing the infection on to other plants.  Do not work in the garden when it is wet as this also increases the likelihood of passing the infection from plant to plant.

The pathogen that causes bacterial leaf spot overwinters in dead plant material.  It is important that all garden debris and weeds be removed from the garden.

Disinfect your gardening tools.

Make sure that your plants are receiving the proper nutrients. Low levels of nitrogen and potassium and high levels of magnesium and calcium have been associated with an increased susceptibility to bacterial leaf spot.

Rotate your plants each year to decrease the likelihood of infection.

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