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I have seen that after 2-3 weeks after applying the mulch of rice hull one of the eggplants died. It firstly started with drooping unexpectedly. I did rule out over or under watering, as schedule and amount of watering for some of my other eggplants were the same. Now, the second of my plant is drooping unexpectedly, and I am worried if it was due to bacterial or fungal disease.

I know finding the root cause could yield accurate results, but I am feeling it might be late until then.

Here are the symptoms:

  1. I have noticed drooping starts from the older leaves, much closer to the soil.
  2. Discoloring/yellowing of leaves from the middle.
  3. Have seen tiny white spots on some of the leaves.
  4. Yellow/brown young shoots and flower buds
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Organic mulch should not result in plant loss for any reason, unless the mulch is applied too thickly up against the crown or stem of an herbaceous plant. My experience with cocoa bean hulls is that a very young/small annual can succumb to rot if that happens; I assume that the same issue would occur with rice hulls (cocoa bean hulls go through a period of mold growth, which acts as an herbicide and kills small weeds as well as small desirable plants).

Also - a garden mulched with any organic material will hold more moisture than one that is unmulched. I've especially noticed this with cocoa bean hulls, which get soft and mushy when wet (wood chips don't do this). Can it be possible that you are accidentally over-watering, and that the dying plants are in a low spot in your garden? Personally, I don't water mulched Solanaceae family plants unless I'm in a severe drought (two weeks + without any rain).

UPDATE

I've looked into possible diseases that match the symptoms you've listed, and the one that looks like a possible match is verticillium wilt. Here's what The Ortho Problem Solver book says about it:

This wilt disease affects many ornamental plants. It is caused by a soil-inhabiting fungus that persists indefinitely on plant debris or in the soil. The disease is spread by contaminated seeds, plants, soil, and equipment.

The fungus enters the plant through the roots and spreads up into the stems and leaves through the wanter-conducting vessels in the stems. The vessels become discolored and plugged. This cuts off the flow of water and nutrients to the leaves, causing leaf yellowing and wilting.

There is no control available for verticillium - your best bet is to rotate Solanaceae crops over a three-year period and remove all plant debris from the garden (and not into a compost heap) at the end of the growing season. As of 2000, there were no eggplant varieties resistant to the disease.

So - a couple of questions: do you rotate your crops? Is this the first year you've experienced anything like this? If so, did you buy the eggplants at a nursery or store, or did you grow them yourself from seed? Did you add compost from a source outside of your yard?

The white spots on the leaves could be whitefly larvae. View them under a magnifying glass and see if they're tiny insects.

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  • With regard to some benefits of mulching, I also have seen similar benefits with rice hull mulch. My mulch is around 2 inches thick and actually is a mix of rice hull and coconut husk. I live in a subtropical climate (the mansoon is just finished, and it would be the start of winter here) and my plants receive around 5-6 hours of direct sunlight. I was hoping that I was not overwatering, as I only water them after checking that the top inch of the soil is completely dried. Let me separate the dying plant and reduce the frequency of watering.
    – lsbmsb
    Oct 9 '20 at 15:34
  • If it helps here are more symptoms - 1. I have noticed drooping starts from the older leaves, much closer to the soil. 2. Discoloring/yellowing of leaves from the middle. 3. Have seen tiny white spots on some of the leaves. 4. Yellow/brown young shoots and flower buds.
    – lsbmsb
    Oct 9 '20 at 15:37
  • I've added your comments to your question and added a possible answer for them to my original answer.
    – Jurp
    Oct 9 '20 at 19:07
  • PS: To answer some of your questions-1. I have a container garden, if it is best I will be reusing the soil of Solanaceae plants. 2. Actually, this is the first year of container gardening, I have not experienced it when I did it on the ground before. 3. I have bought the eggplants from the nursery. 4. Yes, I have bought vermicompost online on amazon.
    – lsbmsb
    Oct 10 '20 at 8:02
  • It's possible that you accidentally imported verticillium - it's also possible that verticillium isn't the correct diagnosis. I would say that if all of the plants succumb, then verticillium was in your compost or in the soil that the potted plants came in. If only a few die, then it's probably not the fungus. In any case, I would not reuse the soil from the containers for any solanaceae plants - If only a few plants die, I would toss the soil in those pots and reuse the rest of it for cucurbits or other crops.
    – Jurp
    Oct 10 '20 at 13:51

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