Gummy stem blight is more common and more severe on fall cucurbit crops than crops grown in the spring. The cooler weather and longer dew periods in the fall provide an ideal environment for the fungal pathogen to grow and spread. Gummy stem blight is most common on watermelon and may also be seen on cantaloupe, cucumber, pumpkin, and winter squash foliage. Butternut squash fruit are susceptible to black rot, the fruit rot phase.
All growers—conventional and organic—should follow two proven steps to eradicate (eliminate) the gummy stem blight fungus from infested fields.
Rotate away from all cucurbit crops for 2 years to allow time for the gummy stem blight fungus to die out in infested crop debris. The timeline starts when the first (diseased) crop is disked. It takes a full 24 months for 90% of the debris to decay under South Carolina weather conditions.
Promptly disk cucurbit crop debris after harvest to stop the spread of airborne ascospores from fruiting bodies that form on vines, stems, crowns, petioles, tendrils, and leaves. Burying crop debris helps it decay faster.
Four fungicides provide good control of gummy stem blight on watermelon, the most susceptible cucurbit grown in the fall: Miravis Prime (FRAC Codes 7 + 12), Switch (FRAC Codes 9 + 12), Inspire Super (FRAC Codes 3 + 9), and Luna Experience (FRAC Codes 7 + 3). Note that because these fungicides share active ingredients in FRAC groups 3, 7, 9, and 12, the only products that can be rotated with each other are Miravis Prime and Inspire Super. Another option is to rotate a generic formulation of tebuconazole (FRAC Code 3) with Miravis Prime or Switch. None of these fungicides controls downy mildew or anthracnose. See Watermelon Fungicide Guide for 2021 for a sample spray program for fall watermelon that covers all major foliar diseases.
Downy mildew was found on watermelon this week in Allendale and Barnwell counties. Although downy mildew does not infect fruit, it reduces sugar content once 1 in 4 leaves (25%) are infected.
All watermelons should be sprayed with a fungicide effective against downy mildew. See pages 214-215 in the 2021 Southeastern U.S. Vegetable Crop Handbook. Any fungicide listed there can be used except Aliette, Previcur Flex, or Curzate. Do not use these fungicides to manage downy mildew on watermelon, as the isolate on watermelon in 2020 was resistant to them. Gavel, Ranman, and Elumin are the least expensive choices. Growers should apply a downy-mildew specific fungicide this week, a protectant (chlorothalonil or mancozeb) next week, and repeat this sequence until one week before the last harvest. See the following publications for more info on watermelon disease management:
Cucurbit downy mildew was found in SC this week in Bamberg, Barnwell, and Calhoun Counties. In each case it was found on cucumbers and for now severity seems low. This is about two weeks earlier than in the past couple years.
If not already doing so, all cucumber and cantaloupe growers in SC should begin applying protective fungicides to help prevent or manage downy mildew. Ranman tank-mixed with a protectant, such as chlorothalonil or mancozeb, or applications of Zampro are good options for protecting plants prior to symptom development. For more info, see Dr. Tony Keinath’s CDM Management publication.
Downy mildew was found yesterday, June 17, 2020, in one watermelon field in Bamberg County, South Carolina. All growers should immediately spray watermelon with Ranman, Revus, or Gavel to protect their crops from downy mildew. In addition to direct yield loss, loss of vine cover can expose fruit to sunburn (when the sun comes out again). Growers who find downy mildew in a field should apply Orondis Ultra or Orondis Opti in a weekly rotation with Ranman or Gavel. For more information on downy mildew, see the updated Cucurbit Downy Mildew Management for 2020.
Downy mildew symptoms on watermelon foliage. Photo from Dr. Tony Keinath.
From Clemson Extension Plant Pathologist Tony Keinath.
During the 2019 Cantaloupe Disease Survey, Alternaria leaf blight has been found in several fields. It was more common in fields that had not been sprayed recently than in fields sprayed on a regular schedule. It also was found in a field rotated only one year out of cantaloupe.
Alternaria leaf blight lesions on cantaloupe leaf.
The FRAC Group 11 fungicides (Cabrio, Quadris, Flint) are the recommended fungicides. Although the gummy stem blight fungus is resistant to this group of fungicides, they still are very effective against Alternaria leaf blight on cantaloupe and anthracnose on watermelon.
The first SC report of cucurbit downy mildew this year came on June 6 from a crop consultant, who found it on cucumbers in Bamberg County. Growers should spray all cucumber and cantaloupe crops to prevent or manage downy mildew. The cheapest downy mildew fungicide is Ranman. It can be tank-mixed with chlorothalonil, mancozeb, or tebuconazole to add protection against fungal leaf spots, like gummy stem blight and anthracnose, that will start to spread with the rain. Another option is Orondis Opti, a pre-mix of Orondis and Bravo (chlorothalonil). Watermelon growers should be spraying with protectants, as downy mildew has been spotted on watermelon in south Georgia.
For more info on downy mildew management in cucurbit crops, refer to this fact sheet.