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Vegetable IPM Updates Archive
Cooperative Extension
Soil-borne Lettuce Pathogens (September 14, 2016)
Since another lettuce growing season has begun in Arizona, it is appropriate to review the kinds of lettuce diseases that can occur at this time of year. Diseases of most concern during the early autumn are caused by soil-borne fungal pathogens, such as Fusarium wilt, Sclerotinia drop, and bottom rot. Symptoms of Fusarium wilt, caused by Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. lactucae, can appear on lettuce anytime after thinning. Effective fungicides generally are not available to manage Fusarium wilt of lettuce, although fumigation with Vapam has suppressed disease severity in some field trials. This disease can be effectively dealt with by not planting susceptible types of lettuce (virtually all head lettuce varieties, for example) in ground known to contain the pathogen, especially during September or October. Soil temperatures during these months favor the growth of Fusarium oxysporum and the resulting development of the wilt disease. Some romaine lettuce varieties have shown some resistance to Fusarium wilt and can be planted in fields harboring the Fusarium wilt pathogen in cooler months when the pathogen is less active. Sclerotinia drop and bottom rot usually do not become apparent in fields until plants are at or past the rosette stage of development. Successful management of Sclerotinia drop, caused mostly by Sclerotinia minor on lettuce that will be harvested in November and December, as well as bottom rot caused by Rhizoctonia solani, require application of effective fungicides well before the appearance of disease symptoms. Sclerotinia minor and Rhizoctonia solani exist in soil as small resistant structures called sclerotia. Successful management of the diseases caused by both pathogens is closely tied to preventing germination of these sclerotia and subsequent infection of plants; therefore, applications of fungicides are made to the soil, where the sclerotia reside. Early application of fungicides, when plants are very small, facilitates thorough coverage of the bed surface. As plants grow and cover more of the bed surface, fungicide coverage of soil is reduced and disease is less effectively managed.

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