Determining the effectiveness of mustard short-cycle cover crops in managing soil-borne fungal pathogens in cucurbits

2008 Annual Report for GNC08-087

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2008: $10,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Grant Recipient: University of Illinois
Region: North Central
State: Illinois
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Mohammad Babadoost
University of Illinois

Determining the effectiveness of mustard short-cycle cover crops in managing soil-borne fungal pathogens in cucurbits


Annual production of cucurbits exceeds 78,000 acres in the Midwest. In Illinois only, about 20,000 acres of pumpkins and 10,000 acres of other cucurbits are produced every year. More than 90% of processing pumpkins are produced and processed in Illinois. Soil-borne fungal pathogens are the most serious threat to cucurbit cultivation in the Midwest, causing up to 100% crop losses. Phytophthora capsici and Fusarium spp. are major soil-borne fungal pathogens in cucurbit fields. There is no resistant cultivar of cucurbits against Phytophthora capsici, and most of cucurbit cultivars are susceptible to Fusarium spp. At present long-term crop rotation, crop sanitation, management of field moisture, and fungicide are used to manage P. capsici and Fusarium spp. Only a very few fungicides are partially effective against P. capsici, and no fungicide is effective against Fusarium spp.

Objectives/Performance Targets

This proposal is a two-year project to determine the effectiveness of mustard short-cycle cover crops in managing soil-borne P. capsici and Fusarium spp in cucurbit fields. The specific objectives are: (i) to compare the effects of the planting seasons of mustard on glucosinolate profile and their release into the soil; (ii) to determine the specific glucosinolates and their concentration in leaves, root and stem; and (iii) to determine the relationship between allelochemical composition, concentration and pest suppression of the chemicals with fungicidal activities for developing biocontrol integrated pest management (IPM) strategies.


Phytophthora blight of cucurbits, caused by Phytophthora capsici, is the most destructive disease of cucurbits. There is no single method available to provide adequate control of this disease. Also Fusarium diseases, caused by Fusarium species, cause plant infection and considerable fruit rot in all cucurbits. All of these pathogens are soil-borne fungi. Suppressing survival and growth of these pathogen by using short-cycle mustard cover-crops is the goal of this study. Thus, this project is expected to have a significant impact on the cucurbit production in Illinois, the Midwest, and nationwide, if using mustard as a cover crop is effective on controlling P. capsici and Fusarium species.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Short term outcome of this project would be determining the difference in suppression of soil-borne fungal pathogens, Phytophthora capsici and Fusarium spp. provided by two different species of mustard cover crops in two different growing seasons. Mustard crop will be planted in spring and in fall seasons of the year and their pest suppression effects by producing compounds known as glucosinolates, on P. capsici and Fusarium spp. will be determined. The intermediate- and long-term objective of this study is to develop effective biocontrol IPM strategies for management of soil-borne pathogens in vegetable fields.


Shaijal Babu Thru Ppoyil
Graduate Student
University of Illinois
M-514 Turner Hall, Department of Crop Sciences
1102 S. Goodwin Ave.
Urbana, IL 61801
Office Phone: 2172448027