How to Identify Xanthomonas and Thrips in Cabbage

Expert Insights
White Cabbage

Whether it’s for sauerkraut, fresh salads, or their favorite dish, consumers are looking for blemish-free cabbage to bring home. However, pests are lurking in fields, waiting for the perfect time to infect or take a bite out of this nutrient-dense crop.  

“Thrips and Xanthomonas can create a lot of losses for growers,” said Leszek Klimczak, Syngenta Vegetable Seeds Europe, Africa, and Middle East Portfolio Manager, Brassica. “In addition to actual lost yield and weight, it costs more in labor to prepare the product for the supermarket. That’s why we offer growers cabbages with resistance.” 

As you walk cabbage fields, you might recognize symptoms of the crop’s two most prolific threats: Xanthomonas and thrips. Syngenta researchers are working around the world and around-the-clock to find resistances to help give growers the highest yield potential possible, without sacrificing color, taste, and plant structure. 

How to Identify Xanthomonas in Cabbage 

Xanthomonas is a damaging disease that can appear at any stage of cabbage production. It first appears with yellow, V-shaped lesions that stretch to the base of the leaf, causing wilt and necrosis. Veins within and adjacent the lesions often turn black, according to the University of Massachusetts. Symptoms can look like other biotic stressors, however, such as drought, oversaturation, and others. 

As the disease continues, the blackened veins worsen, reducing the plant’s ability to translocate water and nutrients throughout the cabbage head. This decreases the quality of the fruit and the yield because growth is limited when the infection is severe. 

Bacteria can persist along in the soil for 40 to 60 days, and on infected plant debris for up to two years, according to research by M. Bess Dicklow, R. Hazzard, A. Cavanagh, S. Scheufele at the University of Massachusetts Extension. 

“The problem with Xanthomonas is it starts small, but then goes through the whole leaf,” Klimczak says. “In not long, it can completely destroy the cabbage, so it won’t grow, destroying yield. We have resistances to help our growers have clean, healthy, and easy to grow crops.” 

Identify Thrips Insect Damage in Cabbage 

Unmarketable – a word no grower wants to hear after working hard all season to produce a cabbage crop. However, when unchecked, thrips damage can lead to unsightly cabbage heads that no market will buy, and no consumer will want. 

At less than two millimeters in length, thrips are a tiny insect that can cause a big impact. They’re pale yellow to brown, winged, sucking insects that overwinter in fields. Thrips injury in cabbage is identified by blistered, scarred, and bronze heads in cabbage, according to PennState Extension. Cabbage will show discolored areas coalesce to create brownish, blister-like areas. 

“Thrips damage can go deeply inside the cabbage,” Klimczak said. “For growers to even be able to sell it they would have to remove a lot of layers, increasing loss and labor spent to prepare the cabbage for the supermarket.” 

Thrips are prolific. Adults might only live for three weeks, but in that time females can lay more than 100 eggs, more on hot days than cold. They lay eggs in incisions made in plant tissues, and eggs hatch and grow into adults in just two weeks, PennState experts find. 

With threats living in plant debris and flying in from nearby fields, growers need to find defensive traits to protect precious yield. The Super Team lineup of cabbage offers a wide variety of resistances to key pests, including Xanthomonas and Thrips in cabbage. The varieties were bred to survive in many weather conditions, adaptable to changes brought on by climate change. 

Discover Super Team and more varieties today. 

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