They lurk deep down in the soils in crop fields—little murderers with names like Rhizoctonia, Pectobacterium and Pythium. You can’t see them, but you can see the mayhem they cause to your crops. Rotting roots. Wilted leaves. Lesions. Stunted growth. Money out the window.
“Soil-borne plant pathogens can limit or even ruin an entire vegetable or fruit crop if left uncontrolled,” says Vijay Kumar Choppakatla, Plant Pathologist/Director of Research and Development for BioSafe Systems. “The challenge is that many of them have a very broad host range, making a wide variety of crops susceptible to the destruction they can cause…and often you don’t know the pathogens exist until the worst damage is done.”
Choppakatla says it doesn’t take much to create the perfect pathogen storm. Among plant pathologists, and at BioSafe, a family-owned manufacturer of biodegradable disease-control products, based in East Hartford, Connecticut, that perfect storm is known as the “three corners of the disease triangle.” You start with a virulent pathogen, add a susceptible host (your crop plants), place in a congenial environment, and boom…a successful plant disease is born.
Even worse, soil-borne pathogens tend to be hardy—some of the nastiest fungal-based pathogens such as sclerotia can thrive in some of the harshest conditions and persist in the soil for many years, whether or not a field is planted.
Bottom line? Once pathogens have made themselves comfortable in your soil, they’re difficult to eradicate. Difficult, but not impossible.