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Be on the Lookout for Southern Blight

Ethan Grundberg, Vegetable Specialist
Eastern New York Commercial Horticulture

April 27, 2018

Southern Blight is caused by the fungal pathogen Sclerotium rolfsii and has historically only been a concern to growers in southern states. However, Cornell pathologist Dr. Sarah Pethybridge has seen an

increase in the incidence of Southern Blight in New York over the past several years. This winter, Dr. Pethybridge confirmed the presence of S. rolfsii on golden storage beets in Dutchess County. Given the broad host range of the pathogen that includes over 1,200 crops and weeds, it is imperative that growers who suspect a possible Southern Blight infestation on their farm contact extension to confirm the diagnosis to assist with optimizing crop rotations to reduce soilborne inoculum.

The most common symptom observed in the field is wilting or collapse of the plant. Upon closer inspection, affected plants often have reddish-brown dry lesions at the soil line. Fungal mycelium is also usually present as a thick white mat around the base of the stem. The  Southern Blight pathogen also produces overwintering bodies called sclerotia under the right environmental conditions (typically high humidity with temperatures about 80 F, but sclerotia were found on beets in cold storage at 40 F). The sclerotia formed by S. rolfsii are a key identifying feature; they are small balls similar in appearance to Dijon mustard seeds that change in color from white to golden to reddish-brown (see image). These sclerotia can survive in the soil for years and endure temperature extremes and drought while waiting to germinate in the presence of a host plant under the right environmental conditions. 

Crops that are most commonly affected by Southern Blight are tomatoes, peppers, snap beans, onions, garlic, and Jerusalem artichokes; however, as indicated above, the pathogen can grow and reproduce on a much broader range of plants. Like with most diseases, early detection and proper identification are critical! Infested plants should be removed and destroyed if possible. Symptomatic plants should NOT be placed in compost, as they may contain sclerotia that will then be spread with the compost to other fields. Some small grains and corn are less susceptible to Southern Blight and can be used in rotation in heavily infested fields, but crop rotation is typically not a viable strategy for management of this pathogen given its broad host range. Initial research in New York suggests that deep plowing of infested fields to bury sclerotia and infested residue at least 6-inches deep can lower the pathogen's survival rate.

Several effective chemical controls are available to conventional growers, but they must be applied preventatively. Labeled formulations of azoxystrobin (Quadris), pyraclostrobin (Cabrio), and penthiopyrad (Fontelis) have been effective for growers in the south. Some research has suggested that OMRI-approved biocontrol agents, such as Trichoderma harzianum (RootShield, TerraGrow) and Gliocladium virens (SoilGard), may also help reduce the number of Southern Blight sclerotia and prevent colonization of host plant tissue by the pathogen.

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Upcoming Events

Muck Donut Hour Every Tuesday

July 16, 2019
8:30 - 9:30 AM
Elba, NY

Meet with Cornell Vegetable Program Specialist Christy Hoepting every Tuesday morning to ask questions and share your observations about ONIONS!
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Vegetable Pest and Cultural Management Field Meeting for Auction Growers (Yates)

Event Offers DEC Credits

July 19, 2019
Friday, 7:00 - 9:00 PM
Himrod, NY

This course will demonstrate pest management in fresh market vegetables in both field and greenhouse (high tunnel) vegetables, primarily for those growing for wholesale auction. A hands-on demonstration of weed, insect and disease identification in vegetables including management options such as inter-row cover crops, grafting, and where appropriate, spray options will be used to educate growers. Judson Reid, Senior Extension Associate with the CCE Cornell Vegetable Program along with CCE staff will instruct participants and facilitate peer-based learning. Details on each topic will focus on field observations at these farms. 
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Muck Donut Hour Every Tuesday

July 23, 2019
8:30 - 9:30 AM
Elba, NY

Meet with Cornell Vegetable Program Specialist Christy Hoepting every Tuesday morning to ask questions and share your observations. Grower experience is combined with research and scouting information for a whole lot of talk about growing ONIONS! All are welcome to join us!
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Announcements

NY Crop Insurance Availability by County & Crops

Apiculture, Dairy-RP, LGM, Nursery, PRF and WFRP policies are available throughout the entire state. A table has been developed showing RMA crop insurance availability by county and crop in New York State.

If a crop is not covered in your county, you may still be eligible for a written agreement for that crop. Please contact an insurance agent to see if this is an option for you.

More information about crop insurance is available through Cornell's New York Crop Insurance Education Program.

Cornell Commercial Vegetable Guidelines Available

The 2019 Cornell Integrated Crop and Pest Management Guidelines for Commercial Vegetable Production are now available!

Written by Cornell University specialists, this publication is designed to offer producers, seed and chemical dealers, and crop consultants practical information on growing and managing vegetable crops in New York State. Topics include general culture, nutrient management, transplant production, postharvest handling, organic production, and managing common vegetable crop pest concerns. A preview of the Vegetable Guidelines can be seen online.

Highlighted changes in the 2019 Vegetable Guidelines include:
  • Updated pesticide options for economically important vegetable crop pests.
  • New pests: beet armyworm in beets; cabbage looper and tarnished plant bug in lettuce and endive; allium leafminer in onions; and Cladosporium, Cercospora, and Stemphylium leaf spots in spinach.
Cornell Crop and Pest Management Guidelines are available as a print copy ($41), online-only access ($41), or a package combining print and online access ($57.50). Shipping charges will be added to your order. Cornell Guidelines can be obtained through many local Cornell Cooperative Extension offices, or from The Cornell Store at Cornell University or call (844) 688-7620.

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