Address Plant Stress to Manage Stem Blight

By Ernie Neff

Stem blight is a problem for Florida blueberry growers “because our production is so intensive and subjects our plants to plant stress,” University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension plant pathologist Phil Harmon said recently. Those stresses include “drought stress and physiological stresses that can’t be avoided due to the nature of our production,” Harmon added. “When plants are stressed, this group of fungi … has the ability to jump onto a plant and cause a chronic disease that takes a couple of years to kill the plant,” he said. While it is killing the plant, it can also affect production.  

Stem blight is also a problem for grapes and peaches, Harmon said. “It’s just a really tough pathogen to control,” he said. “There aren’t a lot of good fungicide management options, and it’s one (disease) that occurs pretty widely.”

Harmon said stem blight is “difficult to diagnose, it’s difficult to control, and it’s so widespread.”

“Generally, fungicides are not going to be the answer for a stem blight disease issue,” Harmon added. He recommended that growers first confirm the diagnosis of stem blight through a plant disease diagnostic clinic and then “address issues of plant stress.”

Hear Harmon’s full interview with AgNet Media’s Alison DeLoach:

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