QUESTION: My peas are wilting and turning yellow. Why are my peas dying? Any ideas? -Kevin F.
ANSWER: There are a variety of reasons that your pea plants may begin to show signs of dying, such as foliage turning yellow. If you’re familiar with the most likely afflictions, you can diagnose what the problem is with your pea plants and take steps to correct it. The bad news is that many of the diseases that affect pea plants require infected specimens to be removed and destroyed, so you may not be able to save this year’s harvest, depending on what the problem is. However, you can take steps to prevent even the most destructive of issues from returning next year.
Fusarium wilt is most commonly known as a disease that strikes tomato plants, but it can impact your pea plants as well. It causes stunted growth and wilting or yellowed foliage on affected plants that does not extend to the base of the stem. Fusarium wilt is a fungal disease that enters plants through the root system. To treat fusarium wilt, you will need to remove and destroy all affected plants and practice crop rotation. There are varieties of pea seeds that are resistant to fusarium wilt, and these are marked with a capital F on their packaging. If your garden has had issues with fusarium wilt in the past, planting these varieties is your safest bet.
Another fungal disease that can strike your pea plants is root rot, and this one is transmitted via the soil as well and spreads via wind, water, and contact with spores. It causes impacted plants to begin turning yellow from their base, gradually causing stems to wither and plants to eventually die. The disease lives on in affected soil over the winter, waiting to infect the next season of newly grown plants in springtime. The treatment for root rot is removal and destruction of impacted plants. To take measures against root rot, plant in areas that have well draining soil, avoid watering plants too much, leave plenty of space between plants when sowing seeds, and rotate your crops. You can set yourself up for success by choosing seeds treated with fungicide or those labeled disease-free.
Downy mildew shows up as yellowed areas on your plants with a gray powder that resembles mold on the underside of leaves or dark areas on seed pods. You’ll need to remove and destroy plants that are afflicted with downy mildew. To prevent it in the future, rotate your crops at least every four years, keep debris out of the garden, and plant resistant seeds.
Ascochyta blight is another disease that causes yellowing foliage and eventually leads to the death of plants. It’s a fungal disease that can spend the winter in plant debris or soil to show its face again in spring, spreading via rain and wind when new crops are planted. Symptoms include plants that drop their buds, have blackened areas on their stems, and show yellow or brown areas in their foliage. You must remove and dispose of all infected plants in your garden to manage the disease. Unfortunately, there are no fungicides to treat this disease or plants that are resistant to ascochyta blight. However, you can prevent recurrence of the disease by using disease-free seeds and rotate crops yearly.