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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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Lorsban is Banned: What Now?

Cabbage maggot (CM) feeds on brassica seedlings by tunneling into the stem of the plant just below the soil line. Their feeding can result in unsightly and unmarketable produce in the case of root brassicas like turnips, and in stunting, reduced stand, and reduced yield in head and stem brassicas like cabbage and broccoli. Lorsban and other formulations containing the active ingredient chlorpyrifos were the first line of defense for control of cabbage maggot in several brassica crops, because 1) at ~$10 per acre, it was affordable, and 2) it was easy to apply and avoided worker exposure as a directed spray at the base of the plant.

Unfortunately, Lorsban and all of its generic products for food and feed uses were banned in New York as of July 31, 2021, and in the United States as of February 28, 2022. In the absence of Lorsban and other chlorpyrifos-containing insecticides, NY brassica growers have 6 products belonging to 4 chemical classes available to manage cabbage maggot. This article, Lorsban is Banned: How to Control Cabbage Maggot in Brassicas Now?, written by Cornell Vegetable Program Specialist Christy Hoepting and Brian Nault of Cornell AgriTech, provides our "2022 Top Picks" to use instead of Lorsban plus results of Cornell research trial results related to application method, rate, and cabbage maggot control.


Propagating Strawberry Plants Through Runners

The production of strawberry plants is challenging due to the rigorous sanitation needs that must be met, especially in field propagation settings, but also in greenhouse settings. To add to that, growers in New York may find it more difficult to obtain their preferred strawberry varieties in the coming years, as fewer nurseries are propagating strawberries. The solution: strawberry plug plants propagated from runners in a controlled environment such as a greenhouse or high tunnel.

Plug production of rarer varieties that do well in New York State will fetch a higher price than dormant bare-root plants due to the higher cost of production and lower availability in the Northeast, especially if plants are available in August. Propagating Strawberry Plants Through Runners, written by Anya Osatuke of CCE Harvest NY and Brad Bergefurd of The Ohio State University, only discusses production and marketing potential of plug plants because successful field production of bare-root strawberries is very difficult to achieve without the use of highly restricted soil fumigants. 



Cornell Commercial Vegetable Guidelines Available

The 2022 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.

Cornell Crop and Pest Management Guidelines are available as a print copy ($43.50), online-only access ($43.50), or a package combining print and online access ($61.00). Shipping charges will be added to your order. Cornell Guidelines can be obtained through many local Cornell Cooperative Extension offices (call to confirm availability), or from The Cornell Store at Cornell University or call (844) 688-7620.


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