Powdery mildew is an important disease in commerciall members of the cucumber family. The specific pathogen that infects cucurbits in California is Podosphaera fusca (synonyms: P. xanthii, Sphaerotheca fulginea and S. fusca), (Janousek et al. 2009, McGrath and Thomas 1996, Pérez-García et al. 2009). Over-wintering chasmothecia produce ascospores that then develop into whitish colonies on leaves, leaf petioles, and stems (McGrath and Thomas 1996, Glawe 2008). Wind or insect vectors disperse asexually-produced conidia and thus spread the disease (Blancard et al. 1994). Favorable conditions for disease epidemics include temperatures between 20-27°C and lower-intensity light (McGrath and Thomas 1996). Disease outbreaks in the Central Valley of California tend to occur during late summer and autumn months, but coastal areas may be continuously threatened (Davey et al. 2008). Infections have the potential to reduce the yield and quality of fruit and can lead to early plant senescence (Blancard et al. 1994, McGrath and Thomas 1996).
Disease management in cucurbits usually involves foliar applications of synthetic fungicides and/or use of disease resistant cultivars (McGrath and Thomas 1996). Fungicides such as azoxystrobin, myclobutanil, quinoxyfen, trifloxystrobin, triflumizole, and micronized sulfur can be used to treat plants (Davis et al. 2008). Sulfur has the advantage of little or no risk of selecting for resistant mildew strains (Blancard et al. 1994). Previous work in our lab has shown that quinoxyfen, triflumizole, and penthiopyrad are highly effective at managing powdery mildew in disease susceptible varieties (Janousek et al. 2007, 2009).
We conducted two field trials at the UC Davis plant pathology experimental farm in Solano County, California to evaluate the effectiveness of ‘soft-chemistry’ and synthetic fungicides in managing powdery mildew on pumpkins and zucchini (Cucurbita pepo) using the susceptible cultivars Sorcerer and Elite, respectively. We applied fungicides every 7 to 14 days for a six week period beginning Sept 2 and continuing through Oct 13. Following four or seven applications, depending on treatment, we assessed disease incidence and powdery mildew colony density on the upper and lower surfaces of leaves in each treatment.