On-farm research can solve new disease problems facing onion and celery growers

Mary Hausbeck, a University Distinguished Professor in the MSU Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences, is working to mitigate disease challenges in onions and celery.

Researcher: Mary Hausbeck

Awarded: $40,000
Leveraged: $366,160

Michigan ranked second in the U.S. for production of fresh market and processing celery in 2018, grown on 1,900 acres and valued at $19.5 million. The state ranked seventh in the U.S. for production of summer storage onions in 2016, grown on 2,400 acres and valued at $10.1 million. Michigan onion and celery growers typically grow both crops and have experienced loss and increased management costs due to new pathogens over the last several years. Celery crop loss from crown rot is direct, as plants are killed in the field prior to maturity. The suspected pathogen is Fusarium, but the currently grown varieties are considered to be resistant to the common pathogen races. Stemphylium leaf blight on onion causes indirect loss through premature leaf senescence, which negatively impacts bulb size, yield and storage. Researchers conducted onion field trials, which indicated an 18% yield increase when a new crop protection program was tested. This equates to a value of $1.8 million to the state’s industry. Discontinuing the use of standard fungicides (azoxystrobin and mancozeb) that used to be effective but are no longer helpful due to pathogen resistance will save the state’s growers approximately $500,000. The celery studies indicate variable results using fungicides. Michigan’s growers should not invest in a costly crop protection program at this time but rather look to more tolerant cultivars.

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