Celery (Apium graveolens var. dulce)-Soft Rot

Cause Pectobacterium carotovorum subsp. carotovorum (syn. Erwinia carotovora subsp. carotovora) or Pseudomonas marginalis, bacterial organisms in soil and on rotten vegetative material. Soft rot follows bruising, freezing, insect damage, or black heart. Insects may spread bacteria.

Symptoms The soft mushy rot of fleshy stems is characteristic in storage and transit. In the field, the celery heart may rot first. Small watery spots, becoming sunken and brown, also may appear at the base of stems. The disease cycle corresponds with bacterial soft rot of carrot.

Cultural control

  • Soft rot may follow bacterial blight, black heart, and mechanical injury, so avoiding those conditions will reduce infection.
  • Long wet periods caused by a dense canopy and poorly timed irrigation encourage infection.
  • Avoid using stagnant pond water for irrigation.
  • Prompt hydro-cooling and rinsing with chlorinated water (see below) reduces postharvest spread.

Chemical control Postharvest rinsing with chlorinated water. Use Agclor 310 at 0.94 to 1.03 gal /1,250 gal water.

Note Rotting celery contains high levels of toxins that react in sunlight to cause severe dermatitis in fair-skinned workers. Persons working in celery in sunny weather should wear gloves, long-sleeve shirts, and long pants.