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Fighting plant diseases in New Jersey

There are various plant diseases that can do great damage to crops. Here are four with description of how they overwinter and what kinds of host plants they have. 

Cucurbit downy mildew
Research has determined that the Cucurbit Downy Mildew falls into two separate clades: Clade I and Clade II. Some CDM (Pseudoperonospora cubensis) isolates fall into Clade I which predominately infect watermelon, pumpkin, and squash, where CDM isolates in Clade II predominately infect cucumber and cantaloupe. Research suggests that isolates in Clade II can quickly become resistant to specific fungicides (NCSU). Most cucumber varieties are resistant to Clade 1 isolates, but there is no resistance currently available for Clade 2 isolates.

Cucurbit powdery mildew
Cucurbit powdery mildew (CPM), caused by Podosphaera xanthii, is one the most important diseases of cucurbit crops throughout the world. The pathogen is an obligate parasite, just like cucurbit downy mildew, meaning it needs a living host in order to survive. In northern regions that have a killing frost in the fall the pathogen will die out when the crop freezes. Not being able to overwinter, the pathogen must be re-introduced each spring or summer in the mid-Atlantic region. The pathogen accomplishes this by re-infecting cucurbit crops in the spring as they are planted up the east coast starting in Florida, then the Carolina’s, Virginia, and so forth. By late May, as soon as cucurbit crops begin to germinate in the mid-Atlantic region, the potential threat for potential powdery mildew infections begin.

Verticillium wilt
Verticillium wilt is a common soil-borne fungal pathogen that once it has infested soil can remain for a very long time. Verticillium wilt is caused by either Verticillium albo-atrium or Verticillium dahlia and has a wide host range (over 200 plant species). Both pathogens can survive (overwinter) as microsclerotia in the soil. Verticillium wilt prefers cooler weather and drier soils and can be more severe in neutral to alkaline soils. Solanaceous weeds such as Nightshade may harbor the pathogen.

Symptoms can vary between hosts, but on eggplant the leaves of infected plants will typically become lopsided where one side of the leaf will wilt and stop expanding while the other side continues to develop. Vascular tissue near the soil line will become discolored. Eventually the entire plant will collapse as the vascular tissue becomes more infected (clogged) and water movement up the plant stops.

Anthracnose in peppers
Unlike in tomato, where symptoms are only present in mature (red) fruit, pepper anthracnose can infect pepper fruit at any growth stage. Currently, there are no commercially-available bell or non-bell peppers with known resistance to anthracnose. The pathogen overwinters, albeit, not very well on infected pepper fruit left in the field or on infected plant material at the end of the production season. Because pepper anthracnose does not overwinter very well, it always starts out as a ‘hot spot’ in the field and then fans out directionally with the prevailing direction of the wind and driving rain. Hot weather along isolated afternoon and evening showers are ideal conditions for anthracnose development.

Source: Plant Pest Advisory, Rutgers University

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