October 15

Greenhouse Grower Crop Risk: Bacterial Canker

Bacterial canker is a potentially serious disease of tomato that can occur in commercial plantings and home gardens. This infectious disease is capable of spreading rapidly, resulting in devastating losses. It is a particularly difficult disease to manage because not only is there no cure, but the pathogen can be hard to eradicate once it has been introduced into a greenhouse, garden, or field.

Tomato plants of all ages are susceptible to bacterial canker; all above-ground parts are susceptible. Symptoms on seedlings include small, water-soaked lesions on foliage, stunting, and wilting. Seedlings affected by bacterial canker will die in many cases.


Bacterial canker is a disease among tomato plants that can wreak some serious havoc on a greenhouse grower’s crops. The disease has many symptoms which include lesions, stunting of growth, and wilting; and most of the time, once a plant shows signs of the disease, it will most likely die.

Losing a plant here and there to bacterial canker is not too big of a deal. However, once a greenhouse grower sees signs of the disease on any plant, it can spell disaster for the whole crop. This is because the disease is infectious and highly contagious, especially inside a greenhouse. It also does not help that plants are susceptible to catching the disease no matter what stage of growth they are in.

Managing the disease once symptoms are found in plants is very difficult and almost a guarantee that many crops will be lost. The most effect way to manage this risk is preventative action, not reactive.

Planting Stock
Use certified pathogen-free seed and transplants. Avoid saving seed from previous crops unless necessary. If seed must be saved, avoid collecting seed from obviously diseased plants.
Crop Rotation
Rotate away from tomatoes and other solanaceous crops for at least three years.
Remove symptomatic seedlings in the greenhouse as quickly as possible and destroy them. Greenhouses should be cleaned and sanitized thoroughly between production cycles; sterilize containers, benches (and other surfaces), and tools with a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water (10 percent). Do not re-use potting media.

Dealing with a bacterial canker infestation can be a daunting task that can take a few years to recover from. Mitigating this risk with preventative actions is a must to protect a greenhouse grower’s business by utilizing best practices in planting stock, crop rotation, and sanitation of the greenhouse. However, even with the most stringent precautions, accidents or outbreaks could happen. That is why it is important to have an insurance program in place that was designed with the unique needs of greenhouse growers in mind.

For more information on greenhouse grower insurance and risk management, visit GrowPro.

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