Ants on cole crops
I have a recurring problem of finding previously healthy broccoli, cabbage or cauliflower plants wilting, and then finding ants burrowing down by the stem. When I pull the plant out, the roots are almost nonexistent. Tried researching and seems the ants aren't the problem but just there to clean up after something else killed it. I'd like to target the cause rather than go scorched earth on it, but this is frustrating. I had the same problem last year. What do you suggest?
Nelson County Kentucky
There are many reasons this could be happening but the most likely is a bacterial disease called Black Rot. The following quote is taken from our publication linked below. "Black rot is caused by the bacterium Xanthomonas campestris pv. campestris. The most common source of the pathogen is infested seed lots or infected transplants, but it can also survive from season to season in plant debris left in the field or garden. While the pathogen only infects crucifers (cole crops), a number of related weeds (see Table 2) are also hosts and can serve as reservoirs of inoculum." https://plantpathology.ca.uky.edu/files/ppfs-vg-01.pdf
Crop rotation, buying clean transplants/seeds and a mulch layer between the plant and the soil can help. Sometimes a copper fungicide is helpful.