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Garlic Pests and Diseases

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1.    Where do you find this crop?


Growing garlic is a thriving operation producing up to 12-14 tonnes of product per hectare. The principal commercialized part is the dry bulb of the plant. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the main region of production is Asia; between 2019-2000, an average of 18,880,698 tonnes per year was produced, 90.3% of the world’s total. In Asia, China produces the highest quantity of garlic, followed by India; in Africa, the primary country of production is Egypt; in the Americas, the USA; and in Europe, Spain.

Image: Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

The plant, whose scientific name is Allium sativum, needs sandy loam soils to grow effectively, and a comprehensive fertilization plan is recommended to obtain a suitable size and quality for the market. You can find personalized advice for your crop in Smart Fertilizer Software, which will cover the specific needs of your plants.

Alongside a tailored fertilization plan, it is important to ensure that the plant is pathogen-free. Due to its organoleptic characteristics, you will never observe the presence of slugs, snails, rodents, rabbits, mice, moles, or ants in your garlic plantation, since garlic acts as a repellent. In popular culture, you may read that garlic extracts and alcohol solutions are widely used to repel insects and diseases in certain plants, but this is not always the case. Certain insects, fungus and viruses are attracted to both substances.


2.    Viruses, the most serious enemy of garlic crops


Research is focussed on viral infection, to eradicate this problem in garlic crops. Viral infection is the main cause of not only damage to individual bulbs, but also a reduction in crop yield in general. It is possible for a virus to infect more than one variety simultaneously, increasing the damage and occasionally leading to plant death. At the Instituto de Investigaciones Agropecuarias (INIA) in Chile, a vast collection of viruses has been identified. The principal virus, observed worldwide, is the Onion Yellow Dwarf Virus (OYDV) that causes abnormal form and patterns on the leaves and makes the whole plant smaller. The OYDV uses insects as a vector to reach the garlic plants, especially Aphis craccivora, Aphis gossypii, Lapaphis erysimi, Myzus cerasi, Myzus persicae and Rhopalosiphum padi.

In addition to OYDV, five more viruses have been identified: the Garlic Common Latent Virus (GaCLV), the Leek Yellow Stripe Virus (LYSV), Garlic Virus A (GaV-A), Garlic Virus X (GaVX) and Garlic Mite-borne Filamentous Virus (GarMbFV). The infection or co-infection of viruses instigate losses ranging from 20 to 70% of the total production value.


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3.    Fungi are difficult to avoid


As mentioned previously, sandy loam soils are preferred for garlic plants. The water must drain correctly because its accumulation will be more advantageous for fungus than for the garlic itself. After the initial infection, the fungus will not take long to materialise visually. Some of their names may sound familiar to you as the most harmful species are also present in many other crops.

The fungus Penicillium sp. infects the cloves, initially changing their colour due to the fungus development and later produces a general decay.  Changes in appearance and the destruction of the plant structure will also be found when other fungi are present such as Phytophthora infestans, Puccina alli or Puccina porri and Botrytis cinerea. In all cases, early detection and preventive measures are key.

4.    Insects play a part


The organoleptic properties of garlic plants do not seem to be comprehensively repellent to insects. In fact, many species are found on crops using them as hosts, food and as a larvae delivery vessel. Some of them are so garlic-specific that the name ‘garlic’ is interwoven into the common name of the insect. This is the case for the Garlic Weevil (Brachycerus algirus), whose larvae attack and destroy the bulbs specifically. Another example is Ringworm of garlic (Lita alliela) that initially attack the aerial part of the plant, interfering with its photosynthesising capacity, continuing to move down to the bulbs where open galleries make the plant turn yellow and die.

Garlic weevil (Brachycerus repertus). Image: Zoochat Kakapo


Conversely, there are insects with a different modus operandi like the pea moths (Laspeyresia nigricana) that deposit their eggs so that the caterpillar penetrates the interior of the leaf sheaths into the buds. This obstructs the development of the plant that soon loses its ability to photosynthesize and gets yellow and rots.


5.    Be faster than the problem


We have discussed some of the most common pests and diseases found in garlic crops. However, there are many more of them out there.

Fertilization must be robust to avoid the inconvenience of pests and diseases. Following the advice of Smart Fertilizer Software can help tackle these problems effectively and efficiently.

In addition, make sure you track the status of your plants with periodical observations and apply remedies immediately if a pathogen is detected. You can depend on the knowledge of our experts with any question you have. Take part in the Smart Fertilizer community where you can discuss any topic with other farmers and our experts.


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