KNOW THE SIGNS

Sooty mold growing on honeydew from scale insects

Sooty mold growing on honeydew from scale insects

by Evan Anderson, UF/IFAS Extension Agent

If you grow a garden, eventually you will have a problem with your plants. Whether it’s a hungry critter looking for a free meal or the latest blight going around, it’s frustrating

Also challenging? Determining what’s causing a problem in the first place–for instance, a number of things can cause yellow leaves or wilting.

First, look for signs or symptoms. Symptoms are reactions to the problem, such as discolored leaves, stunted growth, or cankers on a stem. Signs are organisms causing the problem, such as a fuzzy mold, bacterial ooze, or an insect or insect droppings.

Some signs and symptoms make the problem easy to determine; some take more work. Some may even be secondary to the real issue. Signs of black mold on a leaf, for example, are commonly caused by insects (aphids, scale insects, or mealybugs) drinking plant fluids and exuding honeydew, a sticky substance that coats leaves.

Problems may be caused by other living things (biotic) or nonliving things (abiotic). Common abiotic problems include not enough or too much water, too little sunlight, or a lack of nutrients in the soil. Living things that can hurt plants include animals, insects, other plants, fungi, bacteria and viruses.

Fungi causes most plant diseases. If you see symptoms such as spots on leaves or fruit, yellowing leave,s wilting, cankers or dying seedlings, you might be dealing with a fungus. Bacteria can cause some of the same symptoms. Spots on leaves or fruits, wilting, cankers, or oozing tissues can show up with a bacterial problem. Viral problems often show up as mosaic patterns on leaves or fruit, crinkled leaves, stunted or malformed plants, or yellowing foliage.

Early blight on tomato leaf signals fungal disease

Early blight on tomato leaf signals fungal disease

Some symptoms may help more than others in determining the problem, but any information is better than none.

Remember, the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension service is always here to help in identifying your plant problems. The better you can describe the signs and symptoms you see, the easier it is to get accurate information. A sample or picture of the problem can also help immensely.

Call Okaloosa County’s Extension at 689-5850, or drop by 3098 Airport Road in Crestview.

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