Cabbage Soft Rot

Soil-borne Sclerotinia sclerotiorum fungi
Also known as White Mould

Soft rot on cabbage
Soft rot on cabbage [Credit: Jhony Mera]
Soft rot on cauliflower
Soft rot on cauliflower [Credit: Cynthia M. Ocamb]
Leaf drop disease on a bean plant
Leaf drop disease on a bean plant [Credit: Rasbak]

Host Plants:

On Crops: Cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, beans, peas

Where Found:

Cool temperate climates with abundant rainfall


Plants grow normally until a few days after a period of cool rain. First, outer leaves begin to wilt. On the undersides of the wilted patches, a soft cottony mould develops. At this point plants give off a distinct rotting smell. A spell of warm weather with temperatures above 24C (75F) will help this disease make rapid progress.


The fungi invade the plant’s circulatory system, causing it to rot from within. As the disease progresses, plants flop over and die. Infected plants are inedible.

Preventing Problems:

Make sure plants get good air circulation and plenty of sun, and keep weeds controlled to promote prompt drying after rains. Use mulch to keep soil from splashing onto plants in heavy rains. Avoid using sprinklers or other overhead irrigation methods after cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower or lettuce heads have formed. At the end of the season, pull up and compost plant material so it will be completely rotted by the following summer. In beds where this disease has been seen, grow grains and other non-susceptible crops for three years.

Managing Outbreaks:

Pull up affected plants, chop them into pieces, and compost them in an active compost pile. Do not turn under diseased plant material, because it may survive winter intact. Managed composting is needed to make sure that cabbage or broccoli stumps rot completely by the following summer.

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