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Dynamics of lettuce drop incidence and Sclerotinia minor inoculum under varied crop rotations


Field experiments were conducted to determine the population dynamics of Sclerotinia minor and incidence of lettuce drop at two sites during 1995 to 1998. Rotation treatments at the Spence site, which had a low density of inoculum ( 7 sclerotia per 100 cm(3) of soil) that was distributed uniformly, included: continuous lettuce (LLLL), alternate crops of broccoli and lettuce (BLBL), continuous broccoli or lettuce (BBLL), and fallow-lettuce-fallow-lettuce (FLFL). Under continuous lettuce cropping (LLLL) at the Hartnell site, a progressively aggregated spatial pattern of inoculum distribution developed, despite the initial uniform distribution of high inoculum density. In the fallow treatment (FLFL), the spatial pattern tended to be aggregated following a lettuce crop and less aggregated or random when left fallow. In contrast to these two treatments, treatments involving rotations with broccoli (BLBL and BBLL) exhibited consistently random spatial patterns of inoculum regardless of the crop in the field. The marginal increases in the number of sclerotia contributed by the few diseased lettuce plants were offset by the significant reductions in the number of sclerotia by the broccoli residue. Spatial patterns of disease incidence reflected the pattern of inoculum distribution in the soil at the Hartnell site. Higher inoculum density coupled with an aggregated distribution was associated with an aggregation in disease incidence. At Spence, this correlation was poor in most seasons because of progressive decline in the lettuce drop incidence and lack of treatment differences. In greenhouse experiments, the competence volume for S, minor sclerotia was quantified, which was calculated to be 25 cm(3) for 100% infection and 200 cm(3) for 50% infection. Thus, in 100 cm(3) of soil, a minimum of four to five sclerotia are needed for 100% of infection, explaining the high correlation between inoculum density and disease incidence.

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