Mosaic fungus on your pepper plants may not kill your plants, but crops are often ruined due to damage. Peppers are a common host plant among many others for this viral disease, so familiarize yourself with what to look for and how to treat a problem when it arises to protect your home vegetable garden.
Fungus or Virus
The mosaic disease that affects pepper plants is tomato-tobacco mosaic virus disease. Commonly referred to as "mosaic fungus", this disease is actually not a fungal infection, but caused by a virus. Due to symptoms that appear fungal in nature, however, confusion over the disease pathogen is common. The difference between viral infections and fungi is the fact that viruses do not create spores. Viruses are spread through secondary carriers like insects that transfer disease by chewing on peppers, according to the University of Minnesota Extension.
Since viruses enter plants through wounds, the most important method of prevention is proper care to ensure your peppers are healthy, strong and without injury. Peppers are warm-season plants that should be grown in a temperature range during the day of 70 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit and during night hours of 60 to 70 degrees, according to the Clemson University Extension. Grow in moist, well-drained loam or sand soil. Handle carefully to avoid damage.
Symptoms and Damage
Foliage and plant surfaces usually display a "mosaic" or patches of multi-hued discoloration. Areas of the pepper may look raised, thicker or blistered, giving them the appearance of having a fungal growth. Damage includes stunted growth, chlorosis, malformed peppers and blistered or curled leaves, according to the University of Minnesota Extension.
Growing other common host plants raises the likelihood of pepper infection with mosaic disease. Identify other host plants for wise selections for the home garden. Along with peppers, hosts include petunias, tomatoes, cucumbers, marigolds, spinach and impatiens, according to the University of Minnesota Extension. Since handling an infected plant makes the virus transferable by hands, handling another plant in another bed directly after contact with the infected one makes for rapid disease transfer.
Chemical treatments are not available for mosaic disease because it is a virus and not a fungus. The most effective control method is sanitation. Though bleach may come to mind, it is not an effective disinfectant. While you work, wash your hands with soap and water after handling each plant. For any type of tools used on plants, sanitize them by placing them in boiling water for a period of five minutes. After removing the tools from the water, clean them with soap or detergent, according to the University of Minnesota Extension.