Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/IR00003427/00001
 Material Information
Title: Sclerotinia Diseases of Vegetable and Field Crops in Florida
Physical Description: Fact Sheet
Creator: Pernezny, Kenneth
Publisher: University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences, EDIS
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Acquisition: Collected for University of Florida's Institutional Repository by the UFIR Self-Submittal tool. Submitted by Melanie Mercer.
Publication Status: Published
General Note: "Original publication date April 1994. Reviewed May2009."
General Note: "PP22"
 Record Information
Source Institution: University of Florida Institutional Repository
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the submitter.
System ID: IR00003427:00001

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Ken Pernezny and L. H. Purdy2 1. This document is PP22, one of a series of the Plant Pathology Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original publication date April 1994. Reviewed May2009. Visit the EDIS Web site at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu. 2. Ken Pernezny, Professor and Extension Plant Pathologist, Everglades Research and Education Center, Belle Glade; L.H. Purdy, Professor Emeritus, Plant Pathology Department, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville FL 32611. The term "plates," where used in this document, refers to color photographs that can be displayed on screen from CD-ROM. These photographs are not included in the printed document. The fungus, Sclerotinia sclerotiorum causes a profusion of Sclerotinia diseases on more than 360 different host plant species. There are at least 61 different common names that have been used for different Sclerotinia diseases, and these range from banana fruit rot to wilt. Some common names for Sclerotinia diseases of important crops in Florida are white mold (beans), watery soft rot (cabbage), drop (lettuce), stem rot (potato and tomato), and nesting (post-harvest disease of bean). Sclerotinia diseases of plants that grow in Florida have a history of more than 80 years. Lettuce drop was reported to be present in fields of lettuce in 1896 near Gainesville where certain fields were almost completely destroyed. Since that time Sclerotinia diseases have been reported on many crops in the state and have been particularly damaging in bean, lettuce, cabbage, potato, and tomato. Although Sclerotinia is known to attack peanut and soybeans, it is not a pathogen in these field crops at this time. The best indicator of Sclerotinia disease is the presence of small, black sclerotia (resting structures) of the fungus (Plate 1). Sclerotia vary in size and may be spherical, flattened on one or more sides, elongated, and almost any other shape imaginable. They usually are about 3-10 mm long x 3-7 mm wide, with a black outside covering and usually a white interior. Sclerotia form on the surface of certain plant parts as well as inside the stem cavity of tomato and potato. A ring-shaped sclerotium may develop around the stem of tomato fruit when they are infected by Sclerotinia. Sclerotia enable the fungus to survive from season to season and are the source of inoculum to infect crops.


Sclerotinia Diseases of Vegetable and Field Crops in Florida 2 Another common indicator of Sclerotinia diseases is the presence of white, cottony-like mycelium of the fungus when the environmental conditions are favorable, i.e. cool and moist (Plate 2). Symptoms of Sclerotinia are often different for different crop plants. The disease white mold in beans usually does not appear until after blossoming begins. When flower petals become senescent, die, and fall from the flower, they may be invaded by the fungus. These fungus-invaded petals serve as an essential, intermediate form of organic matter that allows the fungus to advance into the plant itself. The disease often appears first in leaf axils where flower petals often lodge after falling from the flower. The disease advances into the stem, as water-soaked spots that increase in size, girdle the stem, and kill it above the point of infection. The disease can also enter the bean plant through leaves or pods that lie on the soil surface where sclerotia or infected plant parts act as sources for infection; the pods in Plate 3 were infected in this way. Lettuce drop usually begins when wrapper leaves still attached to the plant fall to the soil surface in the normal growth processes and contact a sclerotium that germinates to initiate infection. This fungal growth progresses through the leaf into the base of the lettuce stem, where the fungus destroys the stem causing the plant to collapse or drop (Plate 4). The entire lettuce plant may be invaded by the fungus, as evidenced by the cottony-white fungus growth on plant surfaces that is often followed by the production of sclerotia when environmental conditions are favorable. In tomato and potato, Sclerotinia diseases begin usually about the time of flowering. Early stages of these diseases are similar to the disease in bean. Infections usually start on the leaf axils or joints of the plant where fallen flower petals lodge. Spores of the fungus light on these flower petals, germinate, invade the petal, and subsequently advance into the stem. Water-soaked spots are usually the first symptom observed, and these are followed soon by further invasion of the stem, girdling, and death of the upper part of the stem that turns a bleached light gray, causing the stems to resemble bones of animals that have been left in the sun. The fungus can also enter plants at the soil line or at other points where plant parts touch the soil or other plants that are diseased. Plants in large portions of the field may become diseased and die, producing large, more or less circular, areas of dead plants (Plate 5). The hard, black sclerotia of the fungus are often formed inside the stem cavity and tend to assume the shape of the cavity; that is, they are definitely longer in one dimension than in the other (Plate 6). Some may be almost tubular. The Sclerotinia disease of cabbage may be similar to the disease in lettuce, and indeed may be referred to as drop of cabbage, but watery soft rot is a


Sclerotinia Diseases of Vegetable and Field Crops in Florida 3 better name. The disease begins usually on the leaves where growth cracks or other damage occurs. Spores of the fungus land on these places, germinate, invade the leaf, and grow into the head and stem. Eventually the entire plant may be invaded by the fungus and sclerotia often form over the surface of the head. Almost all Sclerotinia diseases are field diseases, but when they occur in postharvest situations they are very damaging. When beans are shipped in hampers or other containers in which diseased pods are included, a situation called nesting may develop. The fungus grows from the diseased pod to other adjacent pods and produces the cottony-white fungus growth and sclerotia. A mass of diseased pods is created that is stuck together by the fungus growth, resembling a nest (hence, the name "nesting"). Sclerotinia is a fungus that prefers cool, moist weather, causing diseases of great intensity when the temperature ranges from 60 70F (15 21C). High humidity with dew formation supports the spread and increases the intensity of disease. Small, mushroom-like structures called apothecia develop from sclerotia and bear infectious spores (Plate 7). When the environmental conditions change suddenly, these spores are ejected into the air and carried to healthy plants, where they germinate and produce diseases described here. Spore ejection will occur after sclerotia in soil have been wet or soil moisture is supportive of plant growth (e.g. after several rains or irrigations). When in the soil, sclerotia may germinate to produce a fungus growth that may infect certain plants directly, without first growing on nonliving organic matter, such as senescent or dead leaves of the host plant, or dead leaves and plant parts of other plants. In certain situations sclerotia may germinate and the resulting fungus growth remains on the dead leaves for a short time, after which the plant stem is invaded. Consult the University of Florida Plant Disease Control Guide and current labels for specific legal uses of fungicidal chemicals used in the control of Sclerotinia diseases. Four to five weeks of flooding of fields that have a history of Sclerotinia diseases may reduce the numbers of viable sclerotia, thereby reducing the amount of disease in succeeding crops. Seedbeds for celery transplant production are flooded before seeding (Plate 8). This practice, and the application of the practice to other locations, may reduce the incidence of Sclerotinia diseases as well as the incidence of other diseases. Sprinkle irrigation has been reported to enhance the development of certain Sclerotinia diseases, mostly those that are initiated by Sclerotinia spores. Recycled irrigation water may move sclerotia to fields where sclerotia are not present. The suppressing effect of plastic mulch on Sclerotinia diseases, the density of plant canopy, and other cultural practices must be evaluated to establish conclusively their influence on Sclerotinia diseases in Florida.