Bacterial wilt is a complex of diseases that occur in plants such as Cucurbitaceae and Solanaceae (tomato, Common Bean etc.) and are caused by the pathogens Erwinia tracheiphila, a gram-negative bacterium, or Curtobacterium flaccumfaciens, a gram-positive bacterium. Cucumber and muskmelon plants are most susceptible, but squash, Pumpkins and Gourds may also become infected.
Bacterial wilt is a disease of the Vascular Tissue. When a plant is infected, E. tracheiphila
multiplies within the xylem, eventually causing mechanical blockage of the water transport system. The first sign of infection, which appears about five days after acquisition, is the wilting of individual leaves on a single stem. However, the disease will soon spread down the runner and then infect the whole plant, causing it to shrivel and die. There is a diagnostic test for bacterial wilt that can be done in the field. The presence of the E. tracheiphila
causes the sap to become a milky color and acquire a sticky consistency. If the stem is cut near the crown and the ends are slowly pulled apart, the sap should form a viscous string.
Once a plant is infected, there is no way of stopping the spread of the disease. Some cucurbit cultivars are less susceptible than others, so it is beneficial to plant these cultivars. However, since wilt-resistant plants have not yet been developed, the most effective way to prevent the disease is to keep beetle populations at a minimum. While various methods of beetle control have been tested, the most effective preventative measure is to keep beetle populations as low as possible through careful field monitoring and insecticide sprays. Cultural control can also be effective, thus this means one should apply the direct methods.
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