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Three New Research and Outreach Projects to Support Watermelon Disease Management for FL Producers

By Mathews Paret, Pam Roberts, and Bob Hochmuth, University of Florida

Advancing IPM strategies against bacterial leaf spot disease caused by Pseudomonas syringae

  • This is a collaborative project between UF (Dr. Mathews Paret, Dr. Jeff Jones, Dr. Josh Freeman, Bob Hochmuth) and other institutions led by Pennsylvania State University. This project is funded by the USDA-SCRI program with the overall objective to develop effective IPM strategies against the bacterium at seed, transplant and field production stages of watermelon and other cucurbits. This includes studies on advanced seed coating technologies with antibacterial compounds including nanomaterials, strain characterization using whole genome sequencing, improved plant resistance using conventional approaches, and disease management using biological and chemical control options. The goal of the project is to reduce the impact of novel strains of Pseudomonas syringae that has been increasingly being isolated from watermelon and other cucurbits especially occurring under cool and wet conditions in Florida and other states. Typical disease symptoms are shown below.

Enhanced management of powdery mildew through improved scheduling and application of efficacious fungicides

  • This collaborative project between UF (Dr. Pam Roberts, Dr. Mathews Paret, Bob Hochmuth) and USDA (Dr. Bill Turecheck) funded by USDA-FDACS-SCBGP program has the objective to improve disease management on watermelon through the use of a decision support system (DSS). The DSS is a computer based program that assesses weather data to aid in determining the optimum timing and interval of fungicide applications. The overall goal is to optimize fungicide applications while maintaining a high level of disease control. In conjunction with this project, the efficacy of active ingredients in fungicides to the emerging population of powdery mildew fungus to ascertain if the population is becoming insensitive and thus effectively eliminating the fungicide’s usefulness. These two activities together should prevent unneeded or ineffective fungicide applications and reduce the cost of inputs for growers. See powdery mildew fruit symptom in picture below.

Developing field-based diagnostic tests for Cucurbit leaf crumple virus and Cucurbit yellow stunting disorder virus

  • This collaborative project between UF (Dr. Mathews Paret, Dr. Pam Roberts, Bob Hochmuth) and Agdia Inc. (Keith Schuetz) funded by USDA-FDACS-SCBGP program has the objective to develop field-based molecular diagnostic tests known as Recombinase Polymerase Amplification (RPA) for these two viruses of critical importance to Florida production. The goal of the project is to develop specific, sensitive and east-to-use diagnostic tests that can detect Cucurbit leaf crumple virus and Cucurbit yellow stunting disorder from all plant parts from watermelon, other cucurbits, other hosts, volunteer cucurbits and weeds. Some of the diagnostic activities on this project has already been initiated in Dr. Paret (NFREC, Quincy) and Dr. Roberts lab (SWFREC, Immokalee). See symptoms caused by Cucurbit leaf crumple virus in picture below.

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