Integrated Phytophthora blight management in vegetable crops with enhanced soil health from cover crops, reduced tillage, and brassica biofumigation

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2014: $156,119.00
Projected End Date: 10/31/2018
Grant Recipient: Cornell Cooperative Extension-Ulster
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Christian Malsatzki
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County

Annual Reports


  • Fruits: melons
  • Vegetables: beans, cucurbits, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
  • Natural Resources/Environment: soil stabilization
  • Pest Management: allelopathy, biological control, biorational pesticides, botanical pesticides, cultural control, integrated pest management, mulches - killed, mulches - living, prevention
  • Soil Management: soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    PROBLEM AND JUSTIFICATION: The soil-borne pathogen Phytophthora capsici, which causes Phytophthora blight (PB), increasingly threatens economically important vegetable crops in the northeastern US annually constituting 33-40% of all vegetable crops grown (~300,000 acres). Phytophthora capsici persists in soils for many years without a crop host present. Infested fields on average lose ~30% of susceptible crops and ~80-100% in wet years, even with fungicides. Contained incidents become widespread after flooding events, and more frequent instances of heavy rainfall are a proven emerging component of the northeastern climate. Phytophthora capsici is established in 25 NY counties, and epidemics have been likewise reported by Extension in five other northeastern states. Four grower-informed groups in the northeast list PB management as a top research priority. Soil biofumigation with brassica cover crops and reduced tillage are promising components of integrated soil-borne disease management programs that will remain underutilized without better quantification of effects and participatory research with growers. BENEFICIARIES, SOLUTION, APPROACH: Vegetable growers in northeastern states that are leading national producers of crops susceptible to PB (NY, PA, MI, IL, NJ, IN, OH) or where vegetables are prominent commodities (MA, ME, NH, RI, CT and VT) will benefit directly from this project. Our project will work to refine integrated management strategies that combat soil-borne diseases like PB for growers through an integrated soil health enhancement approach including, but not limited to, biofumigation and reduced tillage. Our research will be conducted through a plot-scale study, and a participatory on-farm study. Six NY growers battling PB will be targeted for engagement in research and demonstration trials. These growers will 1) be guided through the trial process, 2) elucidate barriers to adoption, and 3) serve as peer mentors to area growers for adoption diffusion. Research results will be compiled for growers into educational materials including quantitative reports, management recommendations, records of producer experiences, a webinar, and an instructional video. Grower mentors and Extension will disseminate information and materials through field days, local/regional/national conferences/meetings, grower and research publications, and Extension websites that will reach beneficiaries nationwide. Information from this project provide growers with the ability to pragmatically assess, successfully adopt, and viably utilize practices that can be integrated to help control PB and other soil-borne diseases, enhance soil health, and recover significant crop value.

    Performance targets from proposal:

    Forty vegetable growers across three regions of NY will integrate multiple soil borne disease management practices that may include biofumigation with brassica cover crops and reduced tillage on at least an 5 acres per farm, recovering $1000 - $4000 per acre otherwise spent and/or lost on diseases like Phytophthora blight.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.