Turnips With White Rust: What Causes White Spots On Turnip Leaves

Turnips With White Rust: What Causes White Spots On Turnip Leaves

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By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

White rust fungus on crucifers is a common disease. Turnip white rust is the result of a fungus, Albugo candida, which is harbored by host plants and dispersed through wind and rain. The disease affects the leaves of turnips, causing primarily cosmetic damage but, in extreme cases, it can diminish leaf health to a degree where they cannot photosynthesize and root growth will be compromised. Read on to learn what to do about white rust on turnips.

About White Spots on Turnip Leaves

Turnip roots are not the only edible part of this crucifer. Turnip greens are rich in iron and vitamins and have a zesty, tang that enhances many recipes. Turnips with white rust can easily be misdiagnosed as having some other disease. The symptoms are consistent with several other fungal diseases and certain cultural failings. Fungal diseases like these are promoted by several key environmental conditions. Good cultivation practices are crucial to management of this disease.

Turnip white rust symptoms start with yellow spots on the upper surface of the leaves. As the disease progresses, the undersides of the leaves develop tiny, white, blister-like pustules. These lesions can contribute to distortion or stunting of leaves, stems or flowers. The white spots on turnip leaves will mature and burst, releasing sporangia that looks like white powder and which spreads to neighboring plants. Infected plants wilt and often die. Greens taste bitter and should not be used.

Causes of Crucifer White Rust

The fungus overwinters in crop debris and host plants such as wild mustard and shepherd’s purse, plants that are also crucifers. It spreads through wind and rain and can move from field to field quickly in perfect conditions. Temperatures of 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 C.) encourage fungal development. It is also most prevalent when dew or moisture combine with the sporangia.

The fungus can survive for years until ideal conditions form. Once you have turnips with white rust, there is no recommended control except removal of the plants. Because the sporangia may survive in the compost bin, it is best to destroy them.

Preventing White Rust on Turnips

No registered fungicides are recommended, but some gardeners swear by formulas that control powdery mildew, a very similar looking disease.

Cultural practices are more effective. Rotate crops with non-crucifers every 2 years. Remove any old plant material before preparing the seed bed. Keep any wild crucifers well away from the beds. If possible, purchase seed that has been treated with a fungicide.

Avoid watering plants on leaves; provide irrigation under them and only water when leaves have a chance to dry before the sun sets.

Some seasons fungal diseases will be more aggressive but with some pre-planning your crop should be able to avoid any large scale white rust.

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Diseases of Leafy Crucifer Vegetables (collards, kale, mustard, turnips)

Vegetable crops in the crucifer family, grown for their edible leaves include collards, kale, mustard, turnips, and turnip x mustard hybrids. These cool-season crops are well adapted for spring and fall production in Oklahoma. While most of the production is for processing, both processing and fresh markets demand high-quality produce free of blemishes. Diseases are important factors limiting the production of leafy greens. Diseases mainly cause damage by reducing crop quality. Severe disease development can reduce quality to the point where the crop is unmarketable.

Agents (pathogens) that cause the most common diseases of leafy greens are molds (fungi) and bacteria, but diseases caused by viruses and nematodes also can be a problem. This Fact Sheet is intended to aid growers in identifying these diseases and to provide general guidelines for managing them. Accurate identification of a disease is critical to an effective management program. For example, use of a fungicide to control a leaf spot disease will not be effective if the pathogen is a bacteria. Some diseases can routinely be identified in the field with a little experience. For diseases that are difficult to identify in the field, consider submitting samples through local Extension offices to the OSU Plant Disease Diagnostic Laboratory. Consult Fact Sheet

EPP-7612, Plant Disease and Insect Diagnostic Services, for recommended procedures in taking and submitting good samples. Because registrations of pesticides for disease management change from year to year, consult the latest edition of the Extension Agent’s Handbook for Insect, Plant Disease, and Weed Control (Extension Circular E-832).

Turnip Care

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Turnips thrive in full sun but can make do with part shade.

Turnips prefer a slightly acidic soil pH in the range of 6.0 to 6.5. Good soil fertility will help them grow quickly. Make sure the soil is well-draining so the roots don't rot.


At least 1 inch of water per week is vital for good root development. Turnips need to grow quickly, and regular water along with a rich soil, will help them do that. Dryer conditions make the roots more pungent, while uniform water makes for the best flavor.

Temperature and Humidity

Turnips grow best in the cool weather of spring and fall.


Since they grow so quickly, you shouldn't need to fertilize your plants. Just make sure the soil has plenty of organic matter in it before you sow the seeds.

How to Identify and Prevent White Rust on Turnip

White rust infects cruciferous plants, including turnips, around the world. It produces white pustules on the leaves and can distort the flower heads. However, this organism does not kill the plants. Read on to learn how to prevent white rust using cultural control methods.

Watch the video: Turnips Skin and Hair Benefits - Health Benefits of Turnips


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