Bacterial Disease Management in Vegetable Crops without Copper?

The 2020 vegetable growing season has been relatively hot and dry in most of Ohio, resulting in fewer reported serious outbreaks of bacterial diseases. However, circumstances can change and bacterial diseases may need to be managed. Unfortunately, options for bacterial disease management at the field stage are limited.

Bacterial spot on tomato fruit

Copper-based products, often paired with mancozeb or related products, have been the mainstay for bacterial disease management in vegetables for decades. Copper treatment is only partially effective under rainy conditions that favor bacterial diseases, when disease pressure is moderate to high. Further, research conducted in Ohio and other states has shown that copper resistance is widespread in the Xanthomonas bacteria that cause bacterial spot in tomatoes and peppers, rendering these products mostly ineffective. We are no longer recommending copper treatments for bacterial spot management in tomatoes or peppers.  We have less information about other bacterial pathogens but copper resistance is possible in other Xanthomonas species as well as other pathogens such as Pseudomonas and Clavibacter.

There are a few other options for bacterial disease management (see table below) that are grouped into roughly three categories: 1) plant resistance activators/inducers, 2) antimicrobials, and 3) bacteriophage. Keep in mind that none of these products fully control bacterial diseases under moderately to highly conducive conditions. In our research with bacterial spot of tomatoes, Actigard applications consistently reduced bacterial spot damage to foliage, although the incidence of fruit lesions was less consistently reduced and yield not improved compared to the non-treated control in small plot trials.  Actigard is labeled for bacterial disease management in brassicas, cucurbits, tomatoes and non-bell peppers. The other resistance inducers in this group have been shown to suppress bacterial diseases but there is inconsistency and lack of control under highly conducive conditions.

Products in the antimicrobials group also have been shown to suppress bacterial diseases, but again, results vary among trials and these products are not effective under highly conducive conditions. In our experience, under low to moderate disease pressure, disease severity is often significantly reduced compared to non-treated plants.  As a rule of thumb, the reduction in symptom severity ranges from about 25-40%. If these products are going to be used, they should definitely be applied preventatively to keep bacterial pathogen populations low.

Finally, AgriPhage is a product that contains antibacterial viruses (phage) that infect and kill specific bacterial pathogens. There are different mixtures of phage for different pathogens.  This product also must be applied early in an epidemic.


Type Manufacturer Crops labeled

Plant Resistance Inducers

Actigard Plant activator Syngenta Bacterial diseases of brassicas, cucurbits, tomato, non-bell pepper
Regalia Plant (Reynoutria) extract, plant resistance inducer Marrone Bio Innovations Most vegetables
Taegro 2 Bacillus subtilis var. amyloliquefaciens FZB24 Novozymes BioAg Inc. Bacterial diseases of fruiting vegetables
Vacciplant Laminarin, plant defense stimulant UPL Fruiting vegetables, brassicas, leafy vegetables
Double Nickel Bacillus amyloliquefaciens D747 Certis USA Most vegetables
LifeGard WG Bacillus mycoides J Certis USA Most vegetables

Serifel NG

Bacillus amyloliquefaciens MBI600 BASF Most vegetables
Serenade ASO

Serenade Opti

Bacillus subtilis QST-713 Bayer CropScience Most vegetables
Stargus Bacillus amyloliquefaciens F727 Marrone Bio Innovations Most vegetables
Antibacterial Viruses
AgriPhage Antibacterial phage (type of virus) Certis USA Most vegetables

Given the inadequacies of these “rescue” treatments for bacterial disease management, proactive approaches should be undertaken:

  • Start with seeds tested for bacterial diseases; if not possible, treat seeds with hot water or dilute Clorox.
  • Create conditions during transplant production that discourage bacterial pathogen multiplication on plants – dry growing, good air circulation, low relative humidity.
  • Apply labeled antimicrobials (see Table) to seedlings in the greenhouse.
  • Sanitize transplant houses after seedlings are moved to the field.
  • Sanitize vehicles and equipment prior to transporting and transplanting seedlings.
  • Use new or sanitized stakes each season.
  • Sanitize pruning tools after each plant (tomatoes).
  • If possible remove and destroy diseased plants.
  • Practice regular crop rotation.



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