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What Have We Learned About Managing Phytophthora Blight in Cucurbit Crops ?

Margaret Tuttle McGrath
Plant Pathology & Plant-Microbe Biology Section, SIPS
Long Island Horticultural Research and Extension Center, Cornell University
3059 Sound Avenue, Riverhead, NY 11901;

Issued May, 2001

Phytophthora blight continues to be a challenge to manage, with potential to cause total crop loss. Unfortunately it has been increasing in importance in New York, as well as elsewhere in the United States, as it spreads into new areas and frequently eludes control. Symptoms include crown rot, tip blight, and fruit rot (click here for additional description of symptoms plus pictures). Several important points have been learned in our efforts to control this potentially devastating disease:

1. There is no ‘silver bullet’. No single management practice will effectively control Phytophthora blight, thus an integrated management program is essential.

2. Management practices should be implemented before Phytophthora blight occurs on a farm because after it has occurred, it is challenging to continue growing susceptible crops without Phytophthora blight reoccurring.

3. Prevention is very important because Phytophthora blight is very difficult to suppress once it starts to develop in a field.

4. It is critically important to avoid having standing water in production fields, including driveways, following rain or irrigation. This was stressed by both growers and researchers who spoke at the Phytophthora Workshop on 27 March 2001.

5. The pathogen (Phytophthora capsici) evidently can be easily moved between fields on a farm, based on the more common occurrence of Phytophthora blight in new fields on a farm that already has the disease than on farms where it has not yet occurred. Therefore it is necessary to be scrupulous about cleaning equipment and boots after working in an infested field.

Click here for more information about this disease and its management