Understanding and Managing Black Rot Disease in Cabbage: Causes, Symptoms, and Control Measures


Black Rot of Cabbage is a destructive disease that affects cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables. It is caused by the bacterium Xanthomonas campestris pv. campestris, which can cause severe damage to crops.

The symptoms of Black Rot are easily confused with other diseases, making it important to accurately identify the disease early on. The disease initially appears as small, circular, water-soaked lesions on the cotyledons or leaves of the plant. As the disease progresses, these lesions enlarge and turn black, eventually causing the leaves to wither and die.

Black Rot can spread rapidly, especially in rainy conditions. It can infect all parts of the plant, including the roots, stems, and the head of the cabbage. The bacterium can survive in debris from infected plants, making it crucial to remove and destroy any host refuse before planting a new crop in the same field.

Preventing the spread of Black Rot is important, as it can have a significant impact on the yield and quality of the crop. This can be done by implementing good sanitation practices, such as cleaning and disinfecting tools and equipment with a 10% bleach solution (sodium hypochlorite). It is also important to avoid planting cruciferous vegetables in fields where the disease has been detected previously.

Effective disease management strategies include planting disease-resistant varieties and using crop rotation. In addition, the use of fungicides can help control the spread of the disease. However, it is important to follow label instructions and apply the chemical treatment at the appropriate stage of development.

Overall, understanding the symptoms and taking preventive measures are crucial in controlling and managing Black Rot of Cabbage. By implementing proper sanitation practices and early detection, the impact of this disease can be minimized and the quality of cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables can be preserved.

Black Rot of Brassicas Vegetable Pathology Factsheets

Black Rot, caused by the pathogen Xanthomonas campestris pv. campestris, is a devastating disease that affects a variety of cruciferous vegetables, including cabbage. This disease is found worldwide and has a significant impact on crop production.

The life cycle of the pathogen starts with spores or bacteria present in infected debris, weeds, or contaminated seed. Wind and rain can spread the inoculum, aiding in the disease’s spread within and between fields. The pathogen can survive in soil-less environments and can persist for several years.

Black Rot initially affects the lower leaves of the plant, causing yellowing and wilting. As the disease progresses, V-shaped lesions develop along the leaf margins, which turn black. The entire plant may eventually become infected, leading to stunted growth and ultimately death. This disease can also affect other brassicas, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and kale.

Preventing the introduction and spread of the pathogen is crucial for disease management. Good field sanitation practices, such as removing and destroying infected plant debris and weeds, can help reduce the disease’s impact. Additionally, crop rotation and proper ploughing techniques can help bury infected debris and reduce pathogen survival.

There are no known resistant varieties of cabbage to Black Rot; however, selecting disease-free transplants and practicing good plant care can help minimize the disease’s impact. The use of certified disease-free seed can also be beneficial.

Fungicides and bactericides can be used to control Black Rot, but their effectiveness may vary. Applying these products preventatively can help protect healthy plants from infection. Scout the crop regularly and apply treatments when necessary.

In some regions, hot water treatment of seed has been successful in reducing disease incidence. This treatment involves immersing seed in water at a specific temperature for a set period. Consult local resources for specific guidelines.

Chinese cabbage (Brassica rapa subsp. pekinensis) has shown some tolerance to Black Rot and can be used as a buffer crop to reduce disease pressure on susceptible brassicas. However, it is important to note that Chinese cabbage can still become infected if disease pressure is high.

The pathogen primarily enters the plant through wounds, such as those caused by insects or pruning. Minimizing injury to plants and practicing good pest management can help reduce disease incidence.

Black Rot is a challenging disease to manage, and prevention is key. By implementing strict sanitation measures, practicing good plant care, and using disease-resistant varieties where available, the impact of this disease can be minimized. Regular monitoring and the application of appropriate treatments are crucial for successful disease control.


Black Rot of Cabbage is caused by a pathogen called Xanthomonas campestris pv. campestris (Xcc). This bacterium is the central culprit behind the disease and primarily affects members of the Brassicaceae family, including cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.

Xcc is seedborne and can also be present in soil or crop debris, making it easy for the disease to spread. The pathogen can survive for long periods in infected plant debris, even under adverse weather conditions. It can infect plants at any stage of growth, entering through wounds or natural openings.

The pathogen spreads within the plant’s vascular system, specifically the xylem, which is responsible for transporting water and nutrients. Infections result in the formation of characteristic black lesions on the leaves and stems. The disease progresses rapidly and causes the edges of leaves to turn yellow and the veins to blacken.

In severe cases, black rot can result in complete wilting and death of the affected plants. Plants that survive the initial infection can become carriers of the disease, serving as a reservoir for further infections. The pathogen can also move through insect vectors or through mechanical means, such as contaminated equipment or workers.

To prevent the spread and impact of black rot, it is important to implement preventative measures. These include using disease-free seed, practicing crop rotation, maintaining proper field sanitation, and avoiding close planting of susceptible hosts. Organic and sustainable practices, such as using compost as a soil amendment and creating buffer zones, can also be effective in managing the disease.

In terms of treatment, chemical options are limited due to the development of resistant strains of the pathogen. Fumigation may be used in some cases, but it should be done with caution and in accordance with local regulations. Removing and culling infected plants is also important to prevent further spread.

Overall, understanding the pathogen Xcc and its life cycle is crucial in effectively managing black rot disease. By implementing appropriate preventative measures and maintaining good agricultural practices, farmers can minimize the impact of this destructive disease on their crops.

Distribution and Host Range

Black Rot of Cabbage is a destructive bacterial disease that is distributed worldwide. It is prevalent in many countries, including the Caribbean and Oceania. The disease can affect a wide range of crucifer hosts, including cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli.

Black Rot can infect plants at any stage of their life cycle. However, young seedlings and older plants are more susceptible to the disease. The bacteria can survive in infected plant debris and decomposed tissues in the field, serving as a source of inoculum for new outbreaks.

The disease is primarily spread through rain, wind, and contaminated tools or equipment. It can also be seedborne, so careful selection and treatment of disease-free seeds is crucial in preventing its spread.

The symptoms of Black Rot include wilted and yellow leaves, V-shaped lesions on the leaf margins, and a characteristic blackening of the vascular tissues. The disease can rapidly progress, eventually causing the entire plant to collapse and die.

In order to control Black Rot, it is important to practice good field hygiene. This includes ploughing under crop residues, rotating crops, and avoiding the use of contaminated tools or equipment. Resistance to the disease varies among cabbage varieties, so planting resistant varieties can also help minimize the impact of the disease.

Fungicides and other chemical products can be used to control Black Rot, but they should be used judiciously and as part of an integrated pest management approach. Sustainable and organic methods of disease control, such as crop rotation and the use of disease-resistant varieties, are preferred whenever possible.

To prevent the spread of Black Rot, it is important to cull and destroy infected plants properly. Infected plant material should never be composted, as this can spread the disease. Instead, it should be burned or buried in a deep hole.

Overall, understanding the distribution and host range of Black Rot is essential for effectively managing this disease. By implementing appropriate control measures and practicing good field hygiene, growers can reduce the impact of Black Rot on their high-value cabbage crops.

Symptoms and Signs

The general symptoms and signs of black rot of cabbage vary depending on the stage of the disease and the host plant. In the early stages, infected plants may show no symptoms at all. However, as the disease progresses, several key signs can be observed.

One of the first signs of black rot is the appearance of V-shaped water-soaked lesions on the outer leaves of the cabbage. These lesions typically start at the leaf edges and move towards the central vein. As the disease advances, the lesions turn necrotic, becoming dark brown to black in color. The infected leaves may take on a slimy appearance and emit a foul odor.

The black rot pathogen, Xanthomonas campestris pv. campestris, can also cause vascular wilting in infected plants. This occurs when the pathogen invades the xylem vessels, cutting off the flow of water and nutrients to the leaves. Infected plants may exhibit wilting symptoms, such as drooping, yellowing, and eventual death.

The disease can spread easily from infected plants to healthy ones. The bacteria can linger in the soil or on plant debris, and can be easily moved from field to field through tools, equipment, or even contaminated irrigation water. In addition, weeds in the crucifer family can serve as hosts for the bacteria, allowing it to survive and spread. Thus, it is important for growers to practice good sanitation measures, including the removal of infected plant material and the use of disease-free seed and transplants.

Black rot is more severe in warm, moist climates, particularly during the rainy season. The bacteria are capable of surviving on plant surfaces for long periods, especially in damp conditions. To prevent the spread of the disease, growers should avoid planting cruciferous crops, such as cabbage, in the same field year after year. Crop rotation and the use of chemical treatments, such as fumigation and the application of bactericides, can help reduce the incidence of black rot.

In summary, the symptoms and signs of black rot of cabbage include V-shaped water-soaked lesions on the outer leaves, necrotic brown to black lesions with a foul odor, wilting symptoms in infected plants, and the potential for the disease to spread easily. Good sanitation practices, crop rotation, and chemical treatments can aid in the prevention and management of this devastating disease.

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Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.