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Effects of irrigation and tillage on temporal and spatial dynamics of Sclerotinia minor sclerotia and lettuce drop incidence


The temporal and spatial dynamics of Sclerotinia minor sclerotia and the resulting incidence of lettuce drop were studied under furrow irrigation with conventional tillage and subsurface-drip irrigation with minimum tillage during 1993-95. Lettuce crops were grown each year during the spring and fall seasons. All plants were inoculated immediately after thinning in the spring of 1993. Grids of 24 contiguous quadrats (1 by 1 m(2)) were demarcated in the centers of each 150-m(2) plot. Lettuce drop incidence in each quadrat was evaluated each season prior to harvest. One soil sample (100 cm(3)) was collected from each quadrat at harvest and after tillage prior to planting of the next crop for both spring and fall crops and assayed for S. minor sclerotia using wet sieving. Lloyd's index of patchiness, the beta-binomial distribution, and variance of moving window averages were used to evaluate the spatial patterns of sclerotia and lettuce drop incidence under the two irrigation systems and associated tillage treatments. Disease incidence remained significantly higher under furrow irrigation than under subsurface-drip irrigation throughout the study period, and was significantly higher on fall crops than on spring crops. Under furrow irrigation, the number of sclerotia at the end of a crop season increased significantly over that at the beginning of the season, but no significant changes were detected over years. In contrast, the number of sclerotia within a single season did not increase significantly under subsurface drip irrigation, nor was year-to-year accumulation of sclerotia statistically significant. The degree of aggregation of sclerotia increased significantly during a cropping season under furrow irrigation, but not under subsurface drip irrigation. The conventional tillage after harvest under furrow irrigation decreased the degree of aggregation of sclerotia after each season, but the distribution pattern of sclerotia under subsurface-drip irrigation changed little by the associated minimum tillage. Spatial pattern analyses suggested that the aggregation of S. minor sclerotia occurred at a scale of no more than 1 m, and distribution of diseased lettuce plants was random at a scale larger than 1 m. The combination of fewer sclerotia produced by each crop and its unaltered distribution under subsurface drip irrigation and associated minimum tillage makes it a valuable cultural practice for lettuce drop management.

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