Bacterial Blight of Field Peas
Note Number: AG0148
Published: July 2007
Updated: August 2012
Bacterial blight is a serious disease of field peas that is caused by the pathogens Pseudomonas syringae pv. pisi and Pseudomonas syringae pv. syringae. It can be controlled by crop rotation, time of sowing, farm hygiene, sowing disease free seed and using resistant varieties.
What to look for
The disease first becomes evident as small, dark-green, water-soaked lesions on leaves and stipules. The lesions may enlarge and coalesce, but are always delimited by the veins and develop a characteristic fan shape (Figures 1 & 2). The lesions on the leaflets turn yellowish and later brown and papery, lesions on the pods are sunken and turn olive-brown.
Lesions may also develop on stems near ground level. These begin as water-soaked areas, which later turn olive-green to dark brown. Stem lesions may coalesce, causing the stem to shrivel and die. Stem infection may spread upwards to the stipules and leaflets.
Pre-emergence and post-emergence damping-off may occur, and even advanced plants may be killed. Heavily infected seed may be discoloured, but light infection has no visible effect on seed.
The symptoms of bacterial blight caused by Pseudomonas syringae pv. pisi or Pseudomonas syringae pv. syringae are indistinguishable, from each other, on the pea plant.
Fig 1. Water soaked lesion, caused by bacterial blight, spreading into the leaf from the base.
Fig 2. Leaf lesions caused by bacterial blight.
Bacterial blight is caused by the pathogens Pseudomonas syringae pv. pisi and P. syringae pv. syringae. Both bacteria can survive on seed or pea trash, whilst P. syringae pv. syringae can survive on a variety of host plants. The disease commonly becomes established within a field by sowing infected seed. During wet weather, bacteria spread from infected to healthy plants by rainsplash, wind-borne water droplets and plant to plant contact. Infection may occur at any stage of plant growth and is most prevalent following frosts.
Plants damaged by frosts or any other physical damage are more susceptible to infection. Rainfall, heavy dews, strong winds and cold temperatures provide the most favourable conditions for spread of disease within crops.
Bacterial blight is widespread in field peas in Victoria, but its severity varies greatly from crop to crop and between seasons. Severe epidemics can result in crop failure, however, losses are usually less than 20%.
Bacterial blight can be avoided by using an integrated approach to management that encompasses planting disease-free seed, crop rotation, variety selection and avoiding early sowing.
Use of disease free seed
This is the main control measure recommended. The use of clean seed will minimise the possibility of disease, provided the land has not been cropped to peas for several years. Do not use seed from crops identified with bacterial blight during field inspections. A field inspection should occur at mid to late pod fill. Bacteria remain viable on seed for at least 2 years.
Seed testing for bacterial blight is available from:
- AGWEST Plant Laboratories, Department of Agriculture Western Australia, 3 Baron Hay Court, South Perth, WA 6151. Telephone: 08 9368 3721, Fax: 08 9474 2658.
- AsureQuality 3-5 Lillee Crescent (PO Box 1335) Tullamarine Vic 3043 Telephone: 03 8318 9000, Fax: (03) 8318 9001
To obtain a blight-free crop, peas should not be sown on land sown to peas in the previous year or adjacent to pea stubble. Where possible, peas should not be grown on the same land more than once in three years. If disease occurs, the rotation should be extended to once in four years.
Stubble can be a significant source of inoculum. Destroy by burying, baling or burning infected stubble. The survival time of inoculum is significantly reduced by burying pea trash 10 cm below the soil surface.
Time of sowing
Early sown crops are more vulnerable to bacterial blight infection than late sown crops; never sow earlier than recommended for your district. In areas prone to bacterial blight avoid early sowing.
Bacterial blight is often associated with physical crop damage such as hail, frost, strong winds, sand blasting or machinery damage. Physical damage enables bacteria to enter the plant tissue. Minimise the use of post emergence sprays as the severity of bacterial blight can increase if plant tissue is damaged. Avoid paddocks where sulfonylurea residues may be present and paddocks which are more prone to frost.
All varieties are susceptible to Pseudomonas syringae pv. pisi, but the frequency of bacterial blight can be reduced by avoiding varieties susceptible to Pseudomonas syringae pv. syringae (Table 1).
Table1. Reaction of varieties to bacterial blight caused by Pseudomonas syringae pv. syringae
|PBA Oura||Moderately Resistant|
|Parafield||Moderately Resistant - Moderately Susceptible|
|Sturt||Moderately Resistant - Moderately Susceptible|
When bacterial blight is detected, steps should be taken to prevent the spread of disease. Where possible harvest infected crops last to avoid contaminating healthy crops and machinery used in an infected crop should be cleaned thoroughly and washed with disinfectant after use. Likewise, machine operators and farm workers should only move from crop to crop after taking precautions against the spread of bacteria. This is best achieved by wearing rubber boots and waterproof trousers that are washed with disinfectant immediately after leaving an infected field. Crops should never be inspected when they are wet as this increases the chance of spreading disease.
Fungicides and seed treatments are designed to be active against fungal diseases and are ineffective in the control of bacterial diseases. There are copper based compounds that are registered for use in field peas against bacterial blight, but evidence for their effectiveness in Australian field pea crops is limited and inconclusive.
Contact/Services available from DPI
DPI Field Crops Pathology, Grains Innovation Park, 110 Natimuk Rd, Horsham 3400. Tel (03) 5362 2111, or the DPI Customer Service Centre 136 186.
This Information Note was originally written by Helen Richardson and Grant Hollaway, July 2007.
Helen Richardson and Frank Henry, BioSciences Research - Farm Services Victoria, May 2010.
Helen Richardson, BioSciences Research - Farm Services Victoria, August 2012.
Financial support by the GRDC is gratefully acknowledged.