Wilting of Pepper plants, appearance of white patches on the stems and yellowing of pepper leaves- these are telltale symptoms of Pepper Stem Rot. One of the most dangerous of all pepper plant diseases, stem rot is caused by the fungi Sclerotium rolfsii. The fungus thrives in hot, humid conditions and acidic soils, targeting the wounds caused by insects or nematodes.
The outbreak of pepper stem rot is marked by wilting of the plants, often followed by discoloration of leaves. Young plants can perish within a matter of days. Established peppers may develop brown lesions on the stems, close to the soil surface. The plants start to wilt, layering the stems and neighboring soil with patches of fungal growth. Within a few days, the fungal growth gives rise to sclerotia- brown lumps, about 0.5 mm in diameter. The fungal sclerotia closely resemble mustard seeds and germinate at the soil surface, infecting all fruit and foliage they come in contact with. Running water, infected tools and seeds can serve as carriers, thus, aiding the spread of infection.
A little care at the time of planting goes a long way in safeguarding your plants from infection. Make sure to cultivate only healthy, infection free seeds or transplants and provide ample spacing between pepper plants. When picking the planting site, look for an area with organically rich, well drained soil. Avoid planting peppers in soils that are too acidic.
Neglect is one malady no plant can overcome! Make it a habit to inspect your plants regularly. This will allow for timely detection of the signs of infection and give you a chance to act before the damage is done.
Application of ammonium nitrate to the soil at the time of planting is known to be effective in preventing fungal infections. Infected plants should be immediately treated with fungicides to prevent the spread of pepper stem rot.