Tomato Seed Treatment Prevents Bacterial Canker

Five years ago, bacterial canker was a growing threat to New Jersey’s fresh market tomato industry, valued at nearly $28 million. The disease, which causes dark lesions on leaves and light blisters on fruit, had inflicted losses of up to 50 percent for some farmers.

Rutgers University’s Andrew Wyenandt and Kristian Holmstrom used an IPM Partnership Grant to help growers identify sources of infection and manage the disease. They introduced nine growers to a seed heat treatment that eliminates seed as the primary inoculum source, and found this approach to be successful when combined with adequate field rotation.

“We’ve seen a big difference,” explains Gary Mount of Terhune Orchards, who had faced problems with bacterial canker before joining the study. Since Mount began having his commercially purchased tomato seeds treated at the Rutgers Snyder Research and Extension Farm, he has found that the disease comes on later in the season or not at all. “I’d like to see more testing done for this type of seed treatment in other crops, like peppers or flowers,” says Mount, who has been able to grow certified organic tomatoes for the past three years using heat-treated seed.

Project leaders have spread the word to more than 90 New Jersey growers. With increasing grower enthusiasm and greater access to heating units, use of this strategy is becoming widespread, which in turn prevents significant economic loss and helps to reduce the need for antibacterial applications.

Learn more about bacterial canker of tomato.


The Northeastern IPM Center promotes integrated pest management for reducing risks to human health and the environment. If republishing our news, please acknowledge the source (“From Northeast IPM Insights”) along with a link to our website.