The survival and half-life of Clavibacter michiganensis ssp. michiganensis (C. michiganensis), the causal agent of bacterial canker of tomato, were determined in infected plant debris under natural field conditions in California, Ohio and Morocco using a semiselective agar medium. The organism survived significantly longer in tomato stems left on the soil surface than in stems buried in the soil at all locations studied. The pathogen was recovered in high amounts from tomato stems left on the soil surface for 314 days in Ohio and California, USA, and for 194 and 132 days in Melk Zhar and Aït Melloul, Morocco, respectively; it was recovered from stems buried in the soil for up to 314 days in Ohio, up to 240 days in California, and up to 60 days in Aït Melloul and Melk Zhar. The half-life of the pathogen in stems left on the soil surface ranged from 23·2 to 24·8 days in the USA, and from 7·8 to 12·3 days in Morocco, whereas the half-life in buried stems ranged from 14·0 to 16·7 days in the USA and from 3·7 to 9·5 days in Morocco. Based on the half-life data, the predicted survival times of C. michiganensis in stems on the soil surface in Ohio, California, Melk Zhar and Aït Melloul would be up to 822, 770, 424 and 261 days, respectively, while the predicted survival times in stems buried in the soil would be 541, 497, 305 and 128 days, respectively. These results show that the survival and half-life of C. michiganensis in plant debris are relatively long and are influenced by both tissue exposure and geographic location.