The Q&A Archives: Snow peas turn brown and die

Question: Last year I planted Chinese snow peas at the end of April. They grew to about five feet tall, turned brown and died without producing any peas. I replanted in August and the same thing happened. What's going on? John Wee Glendale, NY

Answer: Your problem sounds as if it's caused by fusarium wilt disease, says Wilbur Anderson, pea specialist at Washington State University in Mount Vernon. Pea plants infected with fusarium grow vigorously until flowering, then suddenly die. Fusarium wilt fungi are more active as the soil warms in spring and summer. To lessen damage from this disease, plant peas as early as possible (March in your area). Peas grow and withstand stress better in cooler conditions and the plants can mature before the disease takes hold. For these reasons you should also avoid planting fall crops, says Anderson. Since fusarium is a soilborne disease, rotating crops or planting the peas elsewhere in the garden is a good solution. The disease is not very mobile and won't spread easily while you're working the soil, he adds.

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