Diseases in plants occur when a pathogen is present, the host is susceptible, and the environment is favorable for the disease to develop. Changing one of these three factors may prevent the disease from occurring. Pathogens responsible for blueberry diseases include fungi, bacteria, nematodes, and viruses. If these pathogens are present, manipulation of the environment and the host, to make it less susceptible, help to manage diseases on blueberries in a more sustainable manner. Check with your nursery and local Extension office to see whether known diseases are prevalent in your area. Then, plant tolerant or resistant blueberry varieties.
Managing soil health is key for successful control of soil-borne diseases. A soil with adequate organic matter can house large numbers of organisms (e.g., beneficial bacteria, fungi, amoebas, nematodes, protozoa, arthropods, and earthworms) that in conjunction deter pathogenic fungi, bacteria, nematodes, and arthropods from attacking plants. These beneficial organisms also help foster a healthy plant that is able to resist pest attack. For more information, see the ATTRA publication Sustainable Management of Soil-borne Plant Diseases.
The plant's leaf surface can also host beneficial organisms that compete with pathogens for space. A disease spore landing on a leaf surface, for example, has to find a suitable niche for it to germinate, penetrate, and infect. The more beneficial organisms there are on the leaf, the greater the competition for the disease-causing spore trying to find a niche. Applying compost teas adds microorganisms to the plant's surface, making it more difficult for diseases to become established. Note, however, that there are restrictions on the use of compost tea prior to harvest. Be sure to consult your certifier. For more information on disease controls, see the ATTRA publications Notes on Compost Teas and Use of Baking Soda as a Fungicide.
A blueberry diagnostic tool from Cornell University has a step-by-step exercise that can aid a blueberry grower in determining what diseases may be affecting the crop. The diagnostic tool can be found at the following Web site: www.hort.cornell.edu/department/faculty/ pritts/BerryDoc/blueberry/BBparts.htm
Diseases common to blueberries include mummy berry, Botrytis blight (gray mold), stem blight, stem canker, phytophthora root rot, blueberry
Figure 6. Mummy berry Figure 7. Mummy berry with apothecia Figure 8. Infected leaves and flower bud
Credits: Photos used with permission. Nova Scotia Agriculture and Fisheries Agriculture Center.
stunt, and several viral diseases. For proper disease identification, consult Cooperative Extension Service publications and related literature. Many states also have plant pathology laboratories associated with their land-grant university that can provide diagnosis.
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