Fusarium Wilt control. Ideas and steps taken

structureMarch 4, 2009

Hi folks,

I've been struggling with fusarium wilt for several years. I only have a small area to garden so rotation isn't an option. I've tried solarization, but this isn't an ideal choice since getting it on for the hottest part of the year means skipping a summer crop. I've heavily composted the soil. Are there any other suggestions out there?

This year I will be growing 8 tomatoes in earthtainers. With care this should give me some disease free tomatoes and also serve as a comparison to in-ground.

Most advice on wilt control suggests using resistant varieties. I've tried this in the past, but frankly I don't notice much difference between the "resistant" varieties and my favored heirlooms. However, do you have some variety suggestions? I will be planting Cherokee Purple (has done the best in the past), Stupice (may not put in ground), knin (a Serbian variety that has got wiped out in the past), and ox heart (another "Serbian" variety).

All advice and ideas appreciated. Thanks in advance!

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Dan Staley

Are there any other suggestions out there?



    Bookmark   March 4, 2009 at 9:17PM
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The following helps reduce favorable conditions.

  • Avoid any cultivation around roots once planted and established. Wounded roots are the primary source for the fusarium to enter the plants.

  • Raise the soil to Ph 6.5 -7.0

  • use nitrate sources of fertilizers. Avoid using ammonium based fertilizers.

  • Avoid flood irrigation (water could be conamtinated).

  • Keep the soils cooler than 80°F (if possible) by using a thick layer of mulch (also reduces need for cultivation and potentially damaging the roots).

  • know your seed source. fusarium can be spread by seed.

Other possibilities would be to obtain specific rootstocks for grafting and graft the varieties you want to the rootstocks.

It would help to know which race of fusarium you are dealing with or choose a rootstock with resistance to at least race 1 and 2.

Another option is to try a product called "Actinovate". This can be used as a soil drench and is labeled for use in California. It is rather expensive. One can find smaller amounts at places like Worm's Way, Morgan County Seed or the Maine Potato Lady. There are different formulations so be sure to choose the correct one for the intended use. I will remain nuetral on whether or not to call it an "organic" product.

I have heard of another similar kind of product but I do not know the name.

None of these eliminate fusarium but done together may help manage the problem.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2009 at 9:46PM
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Dan Staley

mulio, these are of course excellent suggestions, but how long will an area lie fallow waiting for a soil drench/fumigate/treatment to work?

That is: will structure get toms in the ground this season, or are containers in order while the area gets 'sterilized' of nasty critters? IME in Bay Area and Sacto, your infected spot is down for a season, unless some products have changed since the last time I've done this...


    Bookmark   March 5, 2009 at 10:36AM
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#1 you very likely wont completely sterilize the area.

even methyl bromide and Vapam where not capable of this. "sterile" conditions actually make a nice place for the pathogens to re-establish quickly probably due to reduced competition. In tests pathogens tended to move back into such conditions faster than the good guys.

Fusarium can blow in on dust particles. Thus even containers could have issues (that was my experience in NC).

Actinovate can be used pre-plant and during the actively growing season. I wouldn't say it's a be all to end all. Just another management tool.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2009 at 10:47AM
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Dan Staley

mulio, I parenthesized sterilized, the most important point is not sterilization but can the person who made the query expect to use their land this season if a treatment is applied? The answer used to be 'no', which is why IMO containers are an alternative.


    Bookmark   March 5, 2009 at 12:24PM
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Thanks for the ideas. I realize there isn't a really good one, but if nothing else it's good to have the earthtainer expense supported. My wife doesn't understand the need for expensive containers when I have "a garden already."

I'm reluctant to use the chemical treatments and doubtful I'd get much sterilization anyway. The garden abuts areas that can't be sterilized and probably contain many host plants and infected soil. I may try the Actionvate on a row to see if it makes any different. Or I may just invest the $ in more containers. I imagine that if I had a dozen earthtainers, I could cover the entire garden area with plastic for a couple seasons and leave the containers on top, moving to different areas occasionally.

I guess I was hoping to hear that some growers had developed more-or-less "control" through cultivation and variety strategies. My fear is that the disease becomes so endemic in the soil that I can't even get a crop of tomatoes out (so far I get a decent harvest, but plants are done early in the season. in my part of CA, I should be harvesting well into December).

Thank you again for all the suggestions. I will be trying to follow your guides Mulio, and adding containers Dan.



    Bookmark   March 5, 2009 at 12:43PM
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Dan Staley

My 3-18 gal Sterilite SWCs cost me less than $10/per, using wick and support material out of the recycle bin, the ones cut will be used for potatoes, so free structure there. Interestingly, I moved my 5-gals from standalone to self-watering and the 5 gal is a little more than half the cost of an 18 gal. - the 6-oz yogurt containers are a perfect wick for 5-gals.

Friends in Bay Area needed 3 years for their plot to clear of wilt and then we used VFN only, still lost one that season. In Sacto less wilt prevalence there, but we used containers there too for one season in the rotation.

Sorry to hear that, fact of life in small gardens, which is why the container technology is blossoming (so to speak).


    Bookmark   March 5, 2009 at 1:34PM
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Hi Dan,
? Is 6 oz. recycled yogurt tub for you 5 gal. SWC wick correct, or misprint ?
(Always like to pick peoples brains right.)

    Bookmark   March 5, 2009 at 4:35PM
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rnewste(8b NorCal)


I will be planting 30 EarthTainers this season. 16 for tomatoes, 9 for corn, 4 for Snow Peas, and one for onions.

I've had a very positive experience with Actinovate on the Snow Peas over the Winter, and will be using it liberally on my tomato plants this season.

The 'Tainer on the left was treated with Actinovate, the one on the far right was not. Enough said??

I am expecting it to also battle disease as well as increase productivity.


    Bookmark   March 6, 2009 at 1:14AM
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Dan Staley

Sheesh, Raybo. Make us all feel bad. ;o)


Yes, that's correct. I haven't calculated it, but the area of the wick appears to be ~1/6 - 1/7 of the area of the bottom of the 5 gal.


    Bookmark   March 6, 2009 at 8:41AM
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Thanks Raybo. Not only for this but for all your work on the earthtainers. I have four modeled on your .pdfs I admit, I always wondered why you bothered with containers given your pictures showed perfectly good ground--OK, I know water savings etc.--now I know another reason, and it's one I can relate to.
Looks like I'll be trying some Actinovate too. That and continuing to try to really build up and balance my existing soil. It'll be fun to have the comparison plantings to watch this season (containered, in-ground w/Actinovate, in-ground with "normal" treatment.)

    Bookmark   March 6, 2009 at 11:28AM
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rnewste(8b NorCal)


Some other benefits in the 'Tainers vs. in-ground.

- Haven't had to use a rototiller for 2 years now.
- 4 to 6 week jump in first ripe tomatoes since soil temp warms quicker, earlier planting out.
- No weeding.
- No pest problems like gophers, etc.
- Isolation of the soil in the 'Tainers reduces risk of soil disease migration.
- Rotation of the plants 180 degrees for more productivity.
- Use of Deck space and other sunny areas for growing.
- Significant reduction in water use.
- Ability to do controlled experiments (fertilizers, bio additives, etc.)

There may be more, but that is what I could think of at the moment.


    Bookmark   March 6, 2009 at 4:31PM
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Hi Raybo,
We all know why you skipped listing benefiting by "fortune" - you've generously shared what you have found.
Now fame ....

    Bookmark   March 6, 2009 at 5:14PM
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Dan Staley

There may be more, but that is what I could think of at the moment.

The major puttering and farting around factor. ;o)


    Bookmark   March 6, 2009 at 5:55PM
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rnewste(8b NorCal)


No "fortune" nor "fame".

Just trying to learn from others like Earl, then share what improvements I've been able to come up with so all benefit. The EarthTainers in Haiti is an example that brings me happiness (see the link below):



Here is a link that might be useful: EarthTainer in Haiti Project

    Bookmark   March 6, 2009 at 6:03PM
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rnewste(8b NorCal)

Last night I ordered an Ozone Generator for aquatic applications. Should be here in a week. Now, just need to figure out a manifold tubing distribution system to send the Ozone to the 16 tomato EarthTainers, and how long per day to run it. (Yes, when I was a kid I went crazy with my Erector Set).

I am going to experiment with everything possible this season to try to keep the 'Tainer water reservoir as pristine as possible.

Need to check-in with experts here to see what potential impact the Ozone will have on the bio's like Actinovate. Goal is to kill the nasties, but not harm the good guys (or I will at least have to reapply the Actinovate more frequently). Small price to pay for a "clean house".


    Bookmark   March 7, 2009 at 7:48PM
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tylenol(z10 Ca)


"just need to figure out a manifold tubing distribution system"

From the picture I can't quite make out the size of the tubing, but any tropical fish store should have a large selection of "gang" type manifolds available. You may know this already after seeing the heater your using in another thread. Don't know anything about the Ozone effect etc., but I believe Oz Generators and UV sterilizers are used in the fish aquarium hobby also.

Hope it helps,

Erector Sets,Tinker Toys, and Lincoln Logs too !lol

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 5:19AM
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rnewste(8b NorCal)


Thanks for the tip on the gang manifolds. I haven't been to a pet store yet - - been ordering everything on the Internet. So I will go to my local one tomorrow to see what sort of tubing and connectors they have.


    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 2:26PM
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Sorry to hear about your dilemma, Structure. I tried Stupice last year and didn't get much of anything in my fusarium wilt soil. It's very frustrating. One friend told me that "Big Boy" has been her best bet for growing tomatoes when dealing with fusarium wilt. I saw her tomatoes, and I really had to wonder if she had fusarium wilt. She exclusively used that tomato.

I don't have a flat area outside to set containers, since my gardening area is a hill. I went to the expense of putting in grow boxes and then learned about the wilt. I moved from CO to NC and hadn't heard of it before. Do people test the soil before they buy a house? :) I'm moving in two years and hoping not to have this nightmare in my next home. Perhaps you could solarize and do a container garden for just one season. Best of luck!

    Bookmark   March 27, 2009 at 1:50PM
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windclimber(z5 KS,close to KCMO)

just an addition-----I experienced what I thought was Fusarium a few years ago. After roto-tilling as deep as possible and adding a yard of compost as I do each year, I had several zones in the 14x16 area where the plants ...in a matter of days....turned full yellow and succumbed.

I have since turned the soil over very lightly...just enough to turn in the cover crop and the next yard of compost in the spring.

Given that the roots may extend + 3' down, and even tho I essentially have created a large raised bed, or contoured landscape........, the disease has not revisited........

I don't know for sure that either of my adjustments to cultivation had anything to do with the result, or if it was truley Fusarium,... did'nt test, but it has worked so far. I've read opinions differing on tilling verses no-till.

I would like to try a method I read about this year, where you "plug" the tomater seedling right in a cover crop, negating the need for mulch. Could the right crop growing above help cleanse the soil?...........This is whats so fun about all of this :)

A good resource for good clean rich compost are the yard waste reclamation centers.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2009 at 6:33PM
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Thanks for the additional ideas. It's really a bummer to have a small garden and face diseases like this. But, hey, least I've got a garden! So far we get a pretty good crop of tomatoes each year too. It's just not what I hoped for, and I live in dread of that time when the wilt is so established it starts to kill off everything before I get to harvest.

I have been rototillering. I have a hard time not. I've heard it's problematic, but something about that nice finely turned earth is hard to resist (do'ho). I may try just adding another think layer of compost this year and not tilling. I get great compost for CHEAP from the university.

I've read on this forum that the "plug" method using a cover crop wasn't too effective, but please let us know if it works.

This year I'm going to depend on containers and Actinovate. I'm really curious to see how the Actinovate works. While expensive, a little goes a long way so if it really does help control Fusarium, then I'm going to be stoked.

I suppose this would be posted already, but Garden's Alive is offering something called "Root GuardianTM Biofungicide for Soilborne Diseases" for control of fusarium wilt in tomatoes. This seems to be a antagonistic fungus. Anyone tried it? I don't think I'd want to mix this with Actinovate which, as I understand it, is a bacteria. But I would like to give it a shot someday.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2009 at 1:07AM
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After reading your post back in March I ordered GS's version of this biological fungicide. It's called Root Shield. It's been almost two months now since I used it and for the first time, I have big beautiful tomato plants with huge tomatoes on them! By this time in the season, my tomato plants are severely stunted, haven't set barely any fruit, and have whole branches that are yellow and shriveled up. I do have two plants that have some yellowing, but they have as much fruit as the other plants around them and are large.

I bought this trichoderma harzianum as sort of a last hope, but actually I had already given up on battling the fusarium wilt and bought containers and dwarf varieties of tomatoes. I just didn't expect anything to help. This is really great for all of us who have just been dreaming about growing things that our race of FW attacks. Of course it's one more thing to pay for, but it's worth it to me to be able to grow my own tomatoes. I have yet to see how it will affect my watermelon, which I've also really struggled with in the past.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2009 at 4:19PM
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Thanks Livvyliv. I'm going to have to try this next season, or maybe even for a fall crop.

I've did go ahead and use Actinovate and it certainly helped the tomatoes grow. Too early to say whether it protects them much from the Fusarium. I've already got daytime wilting. The plants are setting fruit and look OK, but they shouldn't be wilting so much in this mild weather.

Anyway, I will repost my results at the end of the season. I hope you will too. Threads like this are very valuable IMO.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2009 at 10:43PM
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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

Livvy, please read what I wrote about Root Shield in the other thread here about Fusarium Wilt.

I've linked to the webpage of the company that makes it and explained that the Fusarium being talked about is not the Fusarium species that infects tomatoes and how some GWers found out about that by contact with the company quite a few years ago.


    Bookmark   June 12, 2009 at 7:47AM
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> Anyway, I will repost my results at the end of the season. I hope you will too. Threads like this are very valuable IMO.

Any reports?

    Bookmark   March 5, 2010 at 8:10AM
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