soil bacteria Rhodococcus fascians

jeaninmt(3a)April 7, 2014

Hi, Over the past few years we have seen an increasing incidence of strange plant growth. It affects the Broccoli and Cauliflower, as well as lettuce, onion and Calendula flowers. What happens in the broccoli is that it gets a very big plant, and just when I start looking for the head to form, branches grow from down at the soil. Please don't be confused, its not the normal side branches developing. These bottom branches grow like another plant, forming a main head and then side shoots. The original head eventually forms as usual. The yield is amazing, but it takes 90+ days to harvest. These are normally 70 day varieties.

In the Cauliflower, it starts the same, then just as the main head is starting, new bunches of leaves come out at the base. Sometimes the main head completes forming, as well as a freaked out looking side head or two. Sometimes its all just green growth.

The flowers I mentioned freak out just as seed production should begin. The center of the flower shoots out about 2 inches. No seed forms.

The state horticulturist saw pictures and said it was from a soil bacteria called Rhodococcus fascians.

I would sure like to find out how to balance things out so this stopped happening. Our garden is built on compost and barn cleanings. I am thinking that the diversity in bacteria needs to be built up, maybe?

Any other ideas?
Thanks so much!!

This post was edited by jeaninmt on Tue, Apr 8, 14 at 11:21

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jean001a(Portland OR 7b)

Sure would like to see pictures. Any chance of that?

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 12:56AM
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Here's a picture of a cabbage plant with the sprouts coming up. At first, I thought they were from seeds germinating late. But then I got to thinking that I only put 3 seeds in a section, and pinch off the late sprouters, or divide the plants up, so it's not from seed.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 11:23AM
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Here's an onion flower. It looks like it got hit on the side or something. I talked to one plant scientist and she said that it's due to a growth hormone change. Her thought was herbicide residues. Our garden spot has been in use for 20 years. before that it was a cow pasture and was occasionally spot sprayed. It seems strange that if that was the cause it would just now be showing up.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 11:27AM
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Here's a Calendula plant gone wack-o. Calendula has been self sowing in our garden for years. And now this. And these affected plants are throughout our 1/4 acre garden. I would guess that "it" affected 40% of the susceptible varieties.
The main thoughts after talking to many, many experienced research people and gardeners is that it's best to garden somewhere else for a few years. Ha, it's not that easy.

My thought has been that since our soil is so compost based, I need at add some other sources of nutrient, like this wood chip compost. And also incorporate more crop rotation with bigger patches of legumes and grains. Like maybe 1/3 in legumes (beans, peas, try lentils) and 1/3 in grain. It doesn't need more fertility, it's very lush already. Somehow that needs to be brought down a bit, crazy, eh?
Any other ideas?

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 11:35AM
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hortster(6a, southcentral KS)

Not to question your state horticulturist, but all of the plants that you mentioned and pictured are also subject to aster yellows, a mycoplasma-like organism, that produces some similarities to the damage shown. You might google and compare to be sure you are on the right track.


    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 1:39PM
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Thanks for the thought on Aster Yellows. We have had that in our carrots before, accompanied by swarms of leaf hoppers. I looked it up and it sounds like plants are usually very discolored/purple/red by that. Our carrots certainly were. I havn't seen that discoloration in the Cabbage family plants...maybe there are two different things going on??? Hmmm
Looking online I havn't found any pictures of Cabbage family plants affected by it, but I'll keep looking.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 3:13PM
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jean001a(Portland OR 7b)

After seeing that final image, I'd agree with the thot about aster yellows.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 11:20PM
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jean001a(Portland OR 7b)

images from search with "aster yellows cauliflower" -- but no quote marks
Sure looks like your stuff.

Here is a link that might be useful: aster yellows cauliflower

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 11:23PM
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This might be off on a tangent, but what's your nutrient balance like? Have you had any soil tests lately? If something is badly out of balance, the plants may have a harder time resisting the diseases. Just a guess.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 10:54AM
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The soil sample is going in for testing in the next couple days. I keep thinking that the lush plant growth does make it have less defense against things, and probably attracts more pests.
Thanks for all your ideas. I am wrapping my head around the Aster Yellows idea and how to interrupt that cycle. lots of row cover, I think. Possibly importing some predatory insects. I plant a lot for pollinators so we have bugs everywhere. Might need some more carniverous ones.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 12:35PM
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Nutrient imbalances in the soil are known to create conditions that make plants more susceptible to plant diseases and insect pests, so a good reliable soil test would be a help.
You may need to think about solarizing that soil.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 6:41AM
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Not sure if i understand correctly...

Are you unsure if this is coming from your compost ?

You could do a few test plantings.
plant in a unused area, and do not use your compost.

Also, try a test planing far away from the area using your compost

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 8:06AM
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Hi All,
Sorry to sound confusing. What I have been thinking is that because of having compost based soil, the fertility is very high. This has been shown in previous soil tests and by the lushness of growth in our climate.

Then possibly because of the richness, could that allow for some bacteria to go wonkers and get out of balance, leading to this strange growth.

However the Yellow Asters idea, which I just learned from you all, wouldn't be from rich soil, but little flying insects that carry the disease from the South when they blow up here in the summer.

I'm going to go get some soil and send it in for a new soil test for this year. Maybe that will provide some answers.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 12:20PM
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