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Bacterial wilt

Michelle Grabowski

plant with graying, wilted leaves

H.F. Schwartz, Colorado State University,

Bacterial wilt is caused by the bacterium Erwinia tracheiphila. This pathogen can cause severe losses in cucumbers and muskmelons; squash and pumpkins are less severely affected. Watermelon is not affected. Bacterial wilt does not occur every year in Minnesota.


hand holding stem cut in half

G. Holmes, CA Poly Tech State University,

Important biology

The bacteria overwinter in the gut of the striped and spotted cucumber beetles. Not all beetles carry the bacteria. Beetles that feed on infected plants pick up the bacteria. They then move to new plants, creating wounds through feeding. The bacteria are on the mouth parts or in the fecal matter of the beetle and enter the plant through the feeding wounds.

The bacteria multiply rapidly within the plant and plug the vascular tissue resulting in wilting of the vines. Once a plant is infected with bacterial wilt, there is no way to control the disease. The bacteria cannot be transmitted in seed, do not survive in soil, and only survives in plant debris for a short period of time. It cannot overwinter in Minnesota in plant debris.


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