The Q&A Archives: Wilting bush beans

Question: I have no luck growing bush beans. The last two years my bean plants have come up bright green and healthy looking. But after a few days the leaves began to curl and the leaf ends turned brown and flaky. Eventually the plants died. What's wrong? Joseph Goscin Maitland, FL

Answer: Pythium and/or Rhizoctonia fungal diseases are most likely your problem, says Tom Kucharek, plant pathologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville. If the lower stems of the infected bean plants are reddish brown, then the problem is most likely Rhizoctonia. If the roots of the infected plants are gray and water soaked, then the problem is probably Pythium. There isn't a cure for these diseases once you have them, but there are preventive techniques that work. Both diseases do best in moist soil, explains Kucharek. Try planting your beans in raised beds to improve water drainage. Till the soil one month before you're ready to plant and leave the ground fallow to reduce the risk of disease. Soil solarization can decrease the amountof fungus in the soil, but only works if you have two to three weeks of hot, sunny weather, he adds. To try this technique, till, rake and smooth the infected area in the garden. Wet the area thoroughly, then stretch a three to six mil clear plastic sheet over the area, sealing the edges with soil.

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