Manage Phytophthora in your vegetable crops this season
Recently, vegetable growers in the Norfolk, Elgin and Oxford area have started to battle against an unfamiliar pathogen: Phytophthora capsici.
Spotting the early signs of Phytophthora can be tricky, and managing it can be even tougher as it moves through water and soil from one field to the next. Luckily, using a multi-pronged approach can help to lower the risk of spread.
My number one tip is to spend time on careful scouting for early disease detection.
A quick drive-by won’t be enough when you’re field scouting this season. The most common symptoms of Phytophthora crown rot are wilted or stunted plants. Because of this, Phytophthora is often misdiagnosed as Fusarium, or as a drowned-out area.
When it comes to fruit rot, it’s common for foliage to appear healthy while the fruit is symptomatic. Look for water-soaked spots where soil has splashed onto the fruit. In advanced cases, white spores resembling powdered sugar can be found on the fruit.
Best management practices
There are several ways to mitigate the risk of Phytophthora in your vegetable crop. These preventative cultural practices go further than relying on crop protection technology.
Choose a well-drained site, or in fields with known Phytophthora, avoid planting the low areas to reduce the likelihood of infection.
Use raised beds and ensure your planter isn’t leaving a depression at the base of the plant to minimize pooling water.
A third solution is to grow varieties tolerant or less prone to Phytophthora, partnered with a longer crop rotation including crops that are not susceptible to this particular strain of Phytophthora.
Even before planting, consider putting a fungicide plan in place with the help of your local agronomist, retail sales rep, or Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) specialist. Certain crops are more prone to Phytophthora at the crown, while others are more prone to fruit rot. When using a fungicide, I recommend targeting where you need protection – in the root zone or on the fruit.
As Phytophthora can spread quickly and easily to multiple vegetable crops, ensure you clean your equipment, including boots, when travelling between infected and non-infected fields to avoid contamination.
Plan for success
Although these tips are helpful starting points, disease control strategies are never one size fits all. Reach out to your crop advisor, trusted retail partner or myself to help create a plan that will set you up for success this season.