Peppers are a common vegetable to grow in a vegetable garden. There are many varieties with a wide range of flavors and varying degrees of heat. Peppers such as bell peppers are considered mild, while jalapeno and cayenne peppers cause such a burning sensation in the mouth that some people cannot eat them at all. Although peppers are easy to grow, they are occasionally bothered by diseases that can decrease production and weaken plants. Contact your local county agricultural extension office for the latest approved chemicals and spraying schedules.
Tobacco Mosaic Virus
The tobacco mosaic virus affects pepper plants by causing distorted leaves and stunted fruit. It is spread by handling pepper plants after touching tobacco or tobacco products. It can spread from infected tomato plants or grasses. It can be avoided by sprouting your own plants from seed. The tobacco mosaic virus is often brought into the garden from plants purchased at plant nurseries and department stores. Wash hands with soap and water before handling plants. Use mosaic virus-resistant varieties when possible.
Bacterial Leaf Spot
Bacterial leaf spot is another common disease of peppers. It appears as irregular brown spots on leaves and fruit. Eventually the leaves turn yellow and fall off, exposing the fruit to sun scald. It starts from infected seed so seed must be treated before planting, using a fungicide, bleach or by placing in hot water at 122 degrees F for 25 minutes. The hot water treatment can dramatically decrease the germination rate of treated seed, however.
Southern blight is also called southern wilt and is caused by a soil-borne pathogen called Sclerotium rolfsii. The disease shows up as yellowing of leaves and severe infections result in a complete collapse of infected plants. The stem of the infected plants will be rotted or brown at the soil line. The best control is crop rotation, as the fungus cannot live in the field for more than three years.
Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus
The tomato spotted wilt virus affects peppers and a wide range of vegetable and ornamental plants. It causes a bronzing of the leaves and die back of leaves. Dark spots develop on the leaves of affected plants. The virus also causes stunted fruit and decreases crop production. The tomato spotted wilt virus is caused by an insect pest known as thrips. Control is obtained by destroying affected plants and using tolerant varieties.