Winter Rains Taking a Toll on Plants in Our Region

A month ago in this space, we reported our expectation that plants being grown in southern Florida would be prone to disease problems if the unusual pattern of significant winter rainfall were to continue. Well, the pattern has continued, and local plants are definitely showing the strain.

What can homeowners do to prevent the outbreak of fungal and bacterial leaf spot diseases, as well as mildews and wilts, in their ornamental, vegetable, and fruit plants? In a practical sense, not much. Lots of leaf spot diseases start in the droplets of water that stand on leaves following rainfall. You can’t hand-dry the leaves, so only a brisk breeze that hastens evaporation of the droplets is helpful in that regard. What you are able to do, however, is to inspect your plants frequently so that you can react quickly to an outbreak and embark on a chemical program to address it. (For future plantings, particularly when it comes to vegetable crops, you can also find out which cultivars are most resistant to the diseases we encounter in southern Florida.)

As we have noted a number of times in the past, the county extension service (IFAS) is a great source of information for dealing with the array of afflictions that may affect our plants. The Extension Connextion is a quarterly IFAS publication that addresses a lot of interesting agricultural matters. In the Winter 2015 issue (http://miami-dade.ifas.ufl.edu/documents/ExtensionConnextion_Winter15.pdf), we direct your attention to the “Update from the Florida Extension Plant Diagnostic Clinic,” as well as “Tomato Chlorotic Spot Virus (TCSV): A Serious Threat to the Tomato Industry.” Both not only provide timely reporting, but also include links to sources of more detailed information. Did you know, for instance, that, for a fee, you can submit plant disease samples for diagnosis?

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