Methods to combat diseases in vegetable crops

Research on Phytophthora capsici identifies management practices that help prevent the spread of disease in vegetable crops.

Phytophthora infected summer squash causing white spores and water soaking.
Phytophthora causes water-soaking and white spores on summer squash and many other vegetables.

Michigan is one of the largest producers of many seasonal vegetable varieties. For those farmers, a crop infection can be a devastating loss. Phytophthora, a pathogen that can overwinter in the soil and survive for more than ten years, is an enormous threat to vegetable farmers’ livelihoods.

The soil borne bacteria, Phytophthora capsici, spreads rapidly via water and can infect cucumbers, zucchini, summer and winter squash, watermelons, cantaloupes, pumpkins, peppers, eggplants, tomatoes and succulent beans. The bacteria has been found in irrigation ponds and surface water sources in Michigan and has the ability to destroy an entire field’s crop.

Farmers who attend Michigan State University’s Agriculture Innovation Day: Focus on Fruit and Vegetable Technologies on June 28 at MSU’s Southwest Research and Extension Center in Benton Harbor, Michigan, will have the opportunity to hear methods of preventing a disease outbreak from researcher Mary Hausbeck.

Hausbeck’s session, titled Fungicides/Diseases: Managing Diseases for Higher Profitability and a Safer Environment, will detail management strategies to prevent disease outbreaks and allow participants to observe the field studies using fungicides to combat the pathogen.

 “The best way to prevent crop infection is to avoid planting in a field that has a history of Phytophthora,” Hausbeck said . “Cultural methods to manage disease include planting into raised beds with black plastic mulch to increase drainage and reduce excess soil moisture and fruits in direct contact with soil.”

Although those are some of the simplest methods to prevent a Phytophthora outbreak in a field, Hausbeck will share many more research-based recommendations with Agriculture Innovation Day participants for those who do not have the capabilities of making those investments.

MSU Agriculture Innovation Day: Focus on Fruit and Vegetable Technologies, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. June 28 at the MSU Southwest Research and Extension Center in Benton Harbor, Michigan, offers a variety of fruit, vegetable and grape growing technologies, including the latest information on pollinators and equipment. The event has been approved for Restricted Use Pesticide Credits (6 credits) and Certified Crop Advisor CEUs in Integrated Pest Management, Crop Management, Soil and Water Management and Sustainability. For detailed session descriptions, visit or contact Ron Bates at

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