Identification, assessment and management of soil-borne plant pathogens in vegetable production systems in the Northeast

2010 Annual Report for LNE10-296

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2010: $124,851.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Beth Gugino
The Pennsylvania State University

Identification, assessment and management of soil-borne plant pathogens in vegetable production systems in the Northeast


Root diseases affect a wide array of vegetable crops grown throughout the Northeast region, significantly impacting the quality and quantity of marketable yield annually. Among the major root pathogens causing damage to vegetables are Phytophthora, Pythium, Rhizoctonia, Fusarium, Sclerotinia, Thielaviopsis, Verticillium, and Phoma. Not only can these pathogens incite disease individually, but they can also interact with other soilborne pathogen(s) and non-pathogenic organisms and cause more severe and damaging disease complexes. They are also frequently associated with poor soil health. Diagnosis of the root disease(s) and its causal agent(s) is critical in designing long-term effective integrated pest management strategies either to prevent or reduce soilborne pathogen populations while improving soil health.

Seven intensive hands-on training workshops will be held in the Northeast region over two years to increase workshop participant knowledge about the biology of major root pathogens in the region, familiarize them with symptoms and signs of the resultant diseases, learn how to assess their prevalence, and discuss sustainable management practices. We will also provide participants with both hardcopy and electronic versions of resource materials to consult and use in future programming as well as to promote networking for further future collaborations. Equipping growers and ag service providers with research-based knowledge about soilborne pathogens and skills through these hands-on trainings will expand the IPM toolbox of each participant and promote integrated crop management across the Northeast region.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Through use of intensive discussions and hand-on trainings in NY, PA, CT/MA, VT/NH and ME, 200 growers, extension educators, NRCS, crop consultants, and other agriculture service providers will be trained in the diagnosis, assessment and management of soilborne fungal pathogens and their root diseases on vegetable crops. Of those, 100 will incorporate acquired knowledge in their programming and communications with growers and thus reach an additional 7,000 growers/stakeholders. In addition, 30 extension educators/ag service providers will actively work with growers to identify and address soilborne pathogen disease problems on their farms. An additional 20 grower participants will diagnosis a disease problem and implement a management solution. Several case studies will be developed to further document impact.


Milestone 1

Target beneficiaries attend and participate in one of seven soilborne disease management trainings that will be held in NY, PA, CT/MA, VT/NH, ME and NJ/DE/MD. Training sessions are designed to educate 25 to 30 people per session with a new group of participants attending in each location over the course of 19 months.

  • The project directors are currently working to assemble workshop content (PowerPoint presentations, factsheets, etc.) based on a detailed outline that was developed. The topics to be covered during the biology and ecology section of the training will include: characteristics of healthy soil, losses attributed to soilborne diseases, plant disease triangle, characteristics of soilborne pathogens, pathogen survival, distribution in the soil and factors that affect infection and disease development. The signs and symptoms section will focus on the types of damage caused by soilborne pathogens (damping-off, wilts, root rots, etc.) as well as symptoms specific to oomycetes, Fusarium, Rhizoctonia, Sclerotinia and Verticillium on specific crops and host families. Due to time constraints, pathogens covered during each workshop will be based on local need, however information covering a wider range of pathogens and disease complexes will be made available in the resource binder. In the section on how-to assess for soilborne pathogens participants will examine symptoms on infected plants as well as learn about disease foci and pathogen spread in the field, how-to collect and submit diseased plant samples for diagnosis, how-to sample and conduct the soil bioassay with snap bean and observe prepared pathogen cultures on selective media and slides to facilitate pathogen identification and disease diagnosis. Specific topics to be covered in the management section will include: selection of resistant/less susceptible cultivars and grafting, pathogen-free plant material, chemical and microbial seed treatments (how they work and how long do they last), mycorrhizal inoculants, transplant drenches, crop rotation/sequences, cover crops/biofumigant crops as well as products applied at planting and post-emergence/planting. For each pathogen, a matrix is being developed to indicate which management practices are most effective for specific soilborne pathogens.

    Cultures of various soilborne pathogens have been collected and stored for the inoculation of specimens to be examined during the hands-on activities. High resolution disease images are also being collected for posting on the project website.

    Both pre-and post workshop and final follow-up evaluation tools have been developed. The pre-post workshop evaluation will be administered at the conclusion of each workshop to measure short-term impacts and perceived changes in knowledge and skills while the final follow-up evaluation tool will be administered one-year following participation in the workshop to measure mid-term project impacts (behavioral changes).

Milestone 2

At the end of each training session, evaluation of hands-on training, supplemental materials, perceived change in knowledge and intention to use acquired knowledge and skills. 19 months.

Milestone 3

Extension educators and other ag service providers will incorporate acquired knowledge and skills into outreach programs and communications with growers. Growers will evaluate and diagnosis root disease problems on their farm and implement appropriate management strategies as needed. 24 months.

Milestone 4

Target beneficiaries and other stakeholders in the vegetable production industry access additional information as needed from the developed web-based resources. 24 months.

Milestone 5

Target beneficiaries complete an on-line (or hardcopy) evaluation one-year following attendance at a workshop to assess project behavioral impact among target beneficiaries and anticipated long-term impact of outreach to vegetable producers in NY, PA, CT/MA, VT/NH, and the Northeast region. 30 months.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Since the full-day workshop series titled “Identification, assessment and management of soilborne plant pathogens in vegetable production systems in the Northeast” is still under development, there are no specific impacts or outcomes at this point in the project. It is anticipated that the first workshop(s) will be held in late winter/early spring 2011 and after that point we will be able to start assessing short-term impacts using the results of the pre-and post workshop survey and continue progress through milestones 2 through 5.


James LaMondia
Chief Scientist
The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station
153 Cook Hill Road
Windsor, CT 06095
Office Phone: 8606834982
George Abawi
Cornell University
630 West North Street
Geneva, NY 14456
Office Phone: 3157872374