Tomato Bacterial Wilt


Bacterial Wilt is caused by the pathogen bacterium Ralstonia Solanacearum and is quite common in the moist sandy soils of the humid coastal south. This bacterium lives in the soil and will work its way quickly through the roots and up the stem of the plants.

Bacterial wilt often happens where plants have been cut, injured or weakened by insects or simply by cultivation. The bacterium clogs up the stem, preventing water and nutrients from reaching the leaves and the plant dies.

Causes and Symptoms

The first symptoms are wilting of the youngest leaves, usually during the hottest part of the day. This can easily go unnoticed because the leaves stay green but eventually the entire plant wilts and dies. These dramatic symptoms occur when the weather is hot (over 85 degrees), the humidity is high and lots of rainfall has left the ground wet. It’s also more common in soil with a high PH.

You can diagnose bacterial wilt by cutting the stem at the base of the plant. Look for discolored tissue. Suspend the stem in a glass of water. If it is infected, a white, slimy substance will ooze into the water within just a few minutes.

Treatment and control

There are no effective chemical controls. When the plants die, the pathogen is released into the soil, so it’s imperative that you remove diseased plants immediately. Do not compost the diseased plants!

So how do you prevent bacterial wilt? Good cultural controls are best.

  1. Running water can spread the disease to other parts of the garden so rotate your crops regularly away from host plants which could include all of the nightshades (tomatoes, peppers and eggplants), flowers including sunflowers and cosmos and potatoes.
  2. Try raised beds to improve drainage and control root knot nematodes that weaken plants, leaving them more susceptible to disease.
  3. Space plants far enough apart to provide good air circulation.
  4. Have your soil tested and maintain a pH of 6.2-6.5, which is ideal for growing tomatoes and many other vegetables.
  5. Wash your hands after handling infected plants and sterilize any gardening tool that could have been used in infected soil.

If you have ongoing problems with this or other soil borne disease, you may want to try raising your tomatoes in pots using commercial growing mix. You invest a ton of time and money into growing beautiful tomatoes; don’t let bacterial wilt ruin all of your efforts!

Have you dealt with bacterial wilt? If so, we’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.

Comments from Other Gardeners
  • Jenny says:

    I have had bacterial wilt and basically used the above suggestions. The critical thing is to attack immediately because otherwise you will lose your entire crop!

  • mmspatrick says:

    Steaming the soil before planting seems to work. Another option second to steaming is baking the soil. Depending which part of the world you are different methods of steaming are used.

  • Justine Kalleku says:

    bacterial wilt first appears as flaccidity in the
    younger leaves. Under ideal environmental conditions, a complete and
    rapid wilt develops with advanced stages appearing within two to three
    days and plant death soon following. If environmental conditions are
    not optimal and the disease develops slowly, leaf epinasty occur,
    and adventitious roots may appear on the stem. These disease my cause total lose if not attended properly in early stages

  • Glenn Lee says:

    I live in Newnan, GA in a new retirement home. I put a lot of money into raised beds and the first year (2012) had a bumper crop of tomatoes. Lots of soup, tomato juice and gifts to friends. But last year every plant died starting in early June. I’ve done a lot of research and found more articles like yours that actually have led me to believe that I may have to give up on growing tomatoes. I’ve got several relatives in Georgia who tell me that this disease is spreading all over Georgia. I find it hard to believe that there isn’t a cure. I think it’s just that enough attention hasn’t been raised about the problem. But I still have a question: How did this disease get in my garden?

    Signed: a disgusted gardener

  • sam says:

    Bacterial wilt have be a lot of problem to me and farmers around me, most time I advice them to plant resistance varieties which can survive the attack.

  • Courtney says:

    thanks for the information… very helpful…

  • Don says:

    I have had bacterial wilt now for two years and just not sure what to do to get rid of it. My garden is a raised bed and the bed is 3 feet tall. the first couple of years I have a ton of tomatoes last year the wilt started and I planted the plants on the other end of the garden and yet it attached them. I guess I’m just going to have to buy pots and bags of soil to grow my tomatoes.

  • syed zaheer quadri says:

    we control it througt salary[50kg cow dung +10 liter cow urine+2kg jaggery+2kg redgram flour+5 litter buttermilk+1 kg tricoderma+100 liter water.]take 220liter water tank add above mentioned material and shake it twice a day. this process goes out for 6 days.after 6 days mix clean water (500 liter). usage of this product is 2liter per plant every month

  • Anonymous says:

    I had a serious attack of my green house by bacteria wilt.. until no tomato can survive at all.I was not able to relocate ma green house because it was much expensive to me.I just covered the ground with polythene sheet and used pots with fresh soil and i was able to produce high yilding tomatoes.

  • Anonymous says:

    I have had bacterial wilt in tomatoes grown in the green house where almost 80% perished.

  • steve says:

    bacterial wilt is almost destroying my entire tomatoes in greenhouse.have tried drenching with enrichBM but its all vanity.what is the most effective method to contrl it considering its my fisrt project.HELP

  • Anonymous says:

    Its the most serious disease especially in greenhouses.

  • Adrian says:

    After the heavy rain and humid conditions of last week (early January 2015) in Canberra, I found two of my fastest growing tomato plants were wilting, especially the new growth shoots. I checked for borers, as the vines felt hollow and soft, but found none. Then I checked all the possible fungal and bacterial diseases and concluded it must be bacterial wilt. On further research, I ripped out the infected plants (each had around 30 tomatoes ready to turn red – which I will use in soups and casseroles etc). I’m hoping the infection was limited to the plants as the base stem of each plant appeared quite robust, and the roots healthy. Now I have my fingers crossed that it will not spread to my other prized tomatoes. Life was not meant to be easy!!!

  • Dr Dharma oraon says:

    Bacterial wilt is serious diseases in rainy season tomato and also yield loss

  • Joseph Jaffu says:

    Hie all,
    I have been growing tomatoes for years and in my experience the most effective way of avoiding bacterial wilt is to practice effective good agricultural practices. Here in Africa where temperatures are likely high, the disease is usually very common.But this disease should not hinder your desire to grow tomatoes because this crop is one of the most profitable ones on the market and a lot of farmers do not know this.

  • Suleiman mutuli says:

    @STEVE practise roguing of the infected plants making sure that you carry along with it surrounding soil. thereafter bring other soil from a different soil and place where you removed the soil. Ensure that soil moisture conditions is at moderate to prevent favourable conditions that encourage root knot disease weakens the stem. thank you in advance.

  • Suleiman mutuli says:

    @Dan had you practised crop rotation?

  • facious mugaradziko says:

    i have discovered bacterial wilt in my greenhouse. at first it was one or two plants infected, but now they are more than that. i have been removing the infected plants for the past three weeks, but, unfortunately the number has increased. the fruits are almost reapening. i don’t know if i am going to get the desired/expected yield. how best can i prevent the plants that are not yet infected

  • Nooranee says:

    im a tomato planter in Mauritius. try powder lime inside the hole before putting manure or compost ,then place plants. it works.

    or spread powder lime in the whole garden and turn the soil upside down well,so that the lime and the soil are well mixed

  • Farayi mupoperi says:

    I’ve plucked one of the two affected tomatoes and taken them to my agronomist who has diagnosed bacterial wilt. However they said all hope isn’t lost. They said they have dealt with worst cases than mine but the solution seems to be boosting the plants to grow faster and stronger so that if possible they will have the ability to withstand disease on their own. My plants are six weeks as of 8 June 2015 and I have been giving them a fertilizer we call quick start here. Under normal circumstances the tomatoes take quick start for the first five weeks under fertigation, then quick grow and best bloom from weeks 11 upwards. They recommended I immediately commence best bloom under fertigation, alternate it with quick grow, then put sulphate of potash , 5g per plant. I’m hoping this would work but I’ve also observed I have to be careful not to overwater the plants. Nematodes were also detected on the root of the diseased plant so I have to get a chemical called blockade and drench my plants as soon as possible. The experts said “one of the things they don’t tell you when you commence a greenhouse project is these challenges you face”.

  • Karanja says:

    I also experienced 100% loss in a 30 * 8 greenhouse. Been advised to replace the soil entirely. I have found it to be too expensive hence resulting to pot and bag planting with fresh soil (less is needed, therefore less expensive) and covered the ground completely with polythene sheets.


    I am a young farmer trying to make a greenhouse productive but the problem of bacterial wilt and the best way to treat the soil has proved to be a real pain and a big blow to my agricultural endeavours. kindly advese me on the best method of planting tomatoes in a greenhouse and the best way to treat the soil before planting. if there are chemicals to be used, please kindly advise me, thanks in advence. i hail from Migori County and do my farming in Rapogi.

  • rju212 says:

    I’ve read that cutting the suckers(shoots between main stem and shoots like a Y) may cause bacterial wilt. Is that right

  • rju212 says:

    Can using the same tomato sticks year after year transfer funguse

  • D. Rey says:

    Can the infected tomato plant be saved by moving it to a pot, or other location? Or is the plant a vector for new infection if moved?

  • Wendy Anne says:

    Our aquaponics system is infected with bacterial wilt, unbelievable. It seems to prefer certain types of tomatoes, my black russians are as yet not affected, cross fingers, but all the others are goners. We are in tropical north Queensland, Australia. I agree with Dr Dharma oraon that it is a serious disease.

  • Lawrence Oagae says:

    Wilting of a tomato plant with the same symptoms of Bacterial wilt. But it only occurs on one row where other plants continue to wilt. Give advice.

  • John Kakembo says:

    Whatever happened to soil fumigation with fumigation guns? I used to see this done on some tomato farms in the early 70s. I didn’t even bother to ask what stuff they used to fumigate. What do those commercial farmers do who grow tomatoes on the same patch ever year?

  • sathiya says:

    Welcome to all growers, the following practice should be following for control and minimizing the bacterial wilt. 1) clean cultivation 2) possible to laying plastic mulching 3) soil or media should be sterilized by organic or inorganic way 4) application of neem cake 5) application of pseudomonosus along with farmyard manure.6)laying of proper drainage speciality

  • andrew says:

    welcome all farmers, i tried proper soil solarization and close interval drenching by use of trichoderma and bacccilus subtilis and proper control of soil ph

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