Wilting leaves on eggplant

pjgooch51August 5, 2014

Looking for some input on an eggplant issue that's just popped up. I have a Dancer eggplant that's been growing like a champ in full direct sun until a few days ago when I noticed a few leaves starting to wilt. Oddly it was only one half of each leaf that was wilting. Now a few days later, those leaves have pretty much shriveled and died, and a few more have the half-wilt going too. Most of the rest of the plant appears OK, though I'm concerned there's something going on here that might take down the whole plant in time.

The wilting does not change or improve with nighttime temps or extra watering. As far as the soil, this is the first time this particular area has been used for eggplants. I had zucchini there last year, which were lost to vine borers. I water every other day.

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Close-up of half-wilting leaf...

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 9:57PM
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Looks like a classic case of verticillium wilt. There's not much you can do about it except letting the plant produce as long as it can before it dies. I deal with it in my garden as well. Some plants continue to hang on and produce, while some plants die quickly. It depends on how much fungal inoculum entered the plant, how aggressive the particular strain is, the weather, and many other factors.

It will get worse every subsequent year if you continue growing eggplants, potatoes, tomatoes or peppers in this bed. Since I have limited space, my plan is to inoculate all my Solanaceous transplants next year with the antagonistic fungus Trichoderma harzianum, as well as inoculate the soil with corn meal mixed with Trichoderma. I have read anecdotal evidence that this can help limit verticillium and fusarium infections in subsequent years although there will always be some incidence of infection.

Management options that may suppress the severity of Verticillium infections in subsequent years include keeping relatively high levels of ammonium nitrogen in the soil (such as by using slow release ammonium fertilizer), mulching soil with plastic to keep it warm/hot and maintaining an acidic soil pH. The stones (or bark mulch? I can't make out in the picture) probably keep the soil cool, which encourages this fungus.

Verticillium is extremely long-lived in the soil. My garden used to be a grassy hay field for at least a decade. The good thing is that strains of verticillium adapted to other families tend to not kill Solanums (and vice-versa) but still cause symptoms such as those you're seeing.

I should also add that you are overwatering. Although too late to correct it this year, limit how often you water established plants next year in order to limit the growth of fungal pathogens. Eggplants are fairly deep-rooted and especially with that bark mulch, once every two days is FAR too much water. I water mine every two weeks once they've become established - in your hotter climate, once a week should be adequate.

This post was edited by Slimy_Okra on Tue, Aug 5, 14 at 22:53

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 10:40PM
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