Florida blueberries are just getting off the ground in The Sunshine State, but blueberry growers are being warned about a new disease to keep an eye out for: bacterial wilt. The Florida Blueberry Grower’s Association (FBGA) released a memo recently about the disease wherein FBGA President Dudley Calfee called it a “new and dangerous pathogen,” according to a GrowingProduce.com article.

The disease was detected in three different locations in Central Florida. It is reported that the disease can kill plants in as little as three weeks in inoculation trials. Growers are being urged to check their fields for signs of the disease. Find details below.

Bacterial Wilt Details

Bacterial Wilt has been found on three different Florida blueberry farms, one in Lake County and two in Desoto counties. UF/IFAS plant pathologist Phil Harmon supplied disease specifications for the GrowingProduce.com piece. Summary points include:

  • Caused by Ralstonia solanacearum.
  • The variety ‘Arcadia’ seems to be the most severely affected by bacterial wilt, but other varieties could be susceptible, and more research is needed.
  • Plants with bacterial wilt show signs of water stress like wilting and marginal leaf burn.
  • Crowns of blueberry plants with bacterial wilt have a mottled discoloration or light brown to silvery purple blotches with ill-defined borders.
  • Wood chips floated in water from crowns of plants with bacterial wilt will stream bacterial ooze.
  • The bacterial pathogen is easily spread in water, soil, or through infected plant material, such as through recycled water or on pruning equipment.

If You Suspect Bacterial Wilt

Florida growers who believe they have blueberry plants with bacterial wilt are urged to send samples of ‘Arcadia’ or others directly to the UF/IFAS Plant Diagnostic Center in Gainesville for testing. The lab requires plants that are ill but not dead with a fresh crown for testing, so growers must utilize an overnight or two-day shipping option. According to the GrowingProduce.com piece, the lab will cover the diagnostic fees for culturing and PCR to support the delimitation and management strategy.

Griffin Fertilizer is committed to helping both growers and ranchers make sound agronomic and economic decisions in order to maximize the health of their grove and pasture. As a full-service custom dry & liquid fertilizer blender and crop protection product distributor, we will continue our mission to further advance Florida agriculture. For questions or concerns about your farm or pasture, contact us and one of our team will be in touch.

Photo credit: The crown is showing symptoms of bacterial wilt. Photo by Phil Harmon, UF/IFAS