Potato Brown Spot and Black Pit

Potato brown spot and black pit are fungal diseases of potato caused by the fungus Alternaria alternata. On leaves, it causes dark brown spots of necrotic tissue with a dark brown margin. Starting as small lesions, the spots can coalesce to cover a large percentage of leaf or petiole surface. On tubers, the disease causes black, deep sunken pits with definite margins that often develop during in storage.

The pathogen causing these diseases survives on infected soil-bound plant debris and susceptible weeds, and spreads to leaves via windborne spores and tubers through soil-bound spores, often after mechanical damage. Favorable conditions include long dew periods, standing water on foliage, and warm or hot temperatures. Reduced airflow, plant maturity, and low nitrogen status of a potato crop can also favor these diseases.

Cultural management involves properly managing soil moisture, post-harvest plant debris, crop fertilization, rotating away from Solanaceous crops, and avoiding bruising tubers during harvest. Properly-timed foliar fungicide applications can also aid in managing the disease.


  • Commercial Vegetable Production in Wisconsin (A3422) from the UW Extension Learning Store. This guide offers the latest recommendations for disease, insect, and weed management in Wisconsin’s most common commercial vegetable crops. Also included are lime and fertilizer recommendations as well as insect identification information and keys.
  • UW Plant Disease Diagnostics Clinic. The University of Wisconsin-Madison/Extension Plant Disease Diagnostics Clinic (PDDC) provides assistance in identifying plant diseases and provides educational information on plant diseases and their control.


Last updated Aug 2023

Potato leaf showing brown spot and black pit lesions
Potato leaf showing brown spot and black pit lesions. Photo Credit: Howard F. Schwartz, Colorado State University, via Bugwood.org