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Phytophthora Crown and Fruit Rot of Cucurbits and Peppers

Posted: July 1, 2013

With the recent heavy rains across the state, there are an increasing number of reports of Phytophthora blight on peppers and cucurbits.
Characterisitic white power sugar-like sporulation of Phytophthhora capsici on the surface of pepper fruit.

Characterisitic white power sugar-like sporulation of Phytophthhora capsici on the surface of pepper fruit.

Phytophthora capsici causes a wide array of diseases ranging from seedling damping-off, leaf spots, foliar blight, root and crown rot, stem lesions to fruit rot on numerous vegetables including pepper, tomato, eggplant and most cucurbits. With the recent spotty heavy rains, I am hearing of more reports of Phytophthora crown and fruit rots in the field caused by Phytophthora capsici (different from the pathogen that causes late blight).

Initial symptoms of Phytophthora fruit rot are water soaked or depressed spots typically on the underside of the fruit where it is in contact with the soil. Symptoms can develop on the upper side of the fruit following rain or an irrigation event that splashes infested soil and spores up onto the fruit. Eventually the fruit will become covered with white sporangia and will rapidly collapse either in the field or shortly after harvest. The sporangia form when the soil is at field capacity and the infective zoospores that cause new infections are released when the soil is saturated which is why this disease is most prevalent poorly drained soil and/or after significant rainfall. Watersoaked lesions can also develop on the stems and eventually girdle the stem and/or crown.

Managing soil moisture by avoiding planting in poorly drained soils or low lying areas, sub-soiling to break-up hard pans, raised beds and avoiding excessive irrigation. Do not irrigate from ponds or surface water sources that may contain water that drained from infested fields. Minimize splash dispersal of spores and surface water movement between rows or fields.

In fields where Phytophthora is a problem minimize movement of people and equipment from infested to uninfested fields. Remove diseased plants and fruit from the field. Avoid culling infected fruit into production fields. Consider disking under the most severely infected parts of the field to reduce secondary spread of the pathogen. Recent research is indicating that the use of biofumigant mustard crops may help reduce disease severity in the subsequent susceptible crop.

Currently, fungicides will only suppress Phytophthora at best. Several including mefenoxam are registered for application through the drip for suppression of the root and crown rot phase early in the season. Foliar applications of oomycete specific fungicides containing mandipropamid, flucopicolide and cyazofamid initiated prior to the development of symptoms will also offer some suppression. See the 2013 Pennsylvania Commercial Vegetables Production Recommendations for a listing of specific products and rates.

Contact Information

Beth K. Gugino
  • Associate Professor Vegetable Pathology
Phone: 814-865-7328