- Author: Richard Smith, Vegetable Crop and Weed Science Farm Advisor
In recent weeks a number of samples have come into our office of lettuce plants that have the following symptoms: stunting, yellowing outer leaves and occasionally with wilting during the afternoon (Photo 1). The symptoms superficially resemble Lettuce Dieback caused by Tomato Bushy Stunt Virus, but Steve Koike has not detected this virus in these plants. Affected plants also typically have roots that are no longer than 1.5 to 2.0 inches long (Photo 2). Upon careful examination of the root tissue, it can be seen that the roots once extended further, but were burned off at this point in the soil. The death of the tip of the root was not caused by a disease. In nearly all cases that I have seen so far, this problem occurs on heavier clay loam to clay type soils.
Based on the uniformity of the depth of the point of death of the tap root, it appeared that this problem was associated with an application of fertilizer. Given that fertilizer is a salt, it is capable of damaging young root tissue. These symptoms are distinct from ammonium toxicity which damages lettuce root tissue by the toxic action of the ammonium on root tissue (see Blog entry April 26 by Steve Koike). Ammonium toxicity causes distinct symptoms on affected roots; however, these symptoms are distinct and appear to be caused simply by salt burn of fertilizer. (Photo 3).
To confirm this hypothesis, last summer I worked with a cooperating grower to recreate these symptoms on lettuce. I used a pipette to inject fertilizer 0.5, 1.0 and 2.0 inches from the base of lettuce plants, and 1.5 inches deep in the soil; all applications were applied at the thinning stage. We observed that there were higher levels of plants with the tap root burned off in the plots where the fertilizer was applied 0.5 inch from the plant than farther from the plant. These results are not surprising, but the question is why do these symptoms occur at all? Tractor applied fertilizer is spaced 2-3 inches from the plant to avoid fertilizer burn. One possible explanation on how the fertilizer may reach the lettuce roots has to do with soil type. As I mentioned the problem seems to occur on heavier soils; these soils are more prone cracking which can permit liquid fertilizers to flow a short distance towards the seedline during the application. If the material flows close enough to the taproot of the young plant, then it can burn the tap root at the level of injection in the soil. This explanation may explain why the problem occurs at more or less a uniform depth in the soil and why affected plants are scattered in the field (e.g. scattered plants or 2-3 affected plants next to healthy plants) (Photo 4).
Photo 1: Typical symptoms of plants with fertilizer burn on the roots
Photo 2. Plant with the tap root burned of 1.5-2.0 inches down in the soil
Photo 3. Close up of the burned of tap root (note that the remainder of the root tissue is healthy)
Photo 4. Pattern of the problem in the field
- Author: Steven Koike, Plant Pathology Farm Advisor
During the month of April 2011 in coastal California, a number of growers and PCAs are seeing wilting and stunting of young lettuce plants. Affected lettuce typically range in size from the 4-to-6 true leaf through rosette stages and are randomly distributed throughout the field as individually affected plants. Such plants initially fall behind in development and may appear slightly stunted. As the problem worsens, these plants will start to wilt during the day. Eventually the older leaves may turn yellow then brown, all foliage wilts, and the plant can collapse and die. Such a condition is caused by two different factors: ammonium toxicity and abrasion of the crown due to wind damage.
Ammonium toxicity: This problem results from the buildup of ammonium in soils planted with young lettuce seedlings. Ammonium toxicity occurs when soils are cool and the soil surface is sealed or compacted, resulting in slow nitrification rates. This disorder can also occur in fields with poorly drained, waterlogged soils. The use of fertilizers that contain ammonium can contribute to ammonium toxicity. When the lettuce root is injured by the ammonium buildup, the lettuce foliage will show the stunting and wilting symptoms described above.
To make a preliminary diagnosis of ammonium toxicity, examine the entire root system of the young lettuce. The central core of the taproot first turns yellow to light brown, then becomes dark brown to red in color (Photo 1). In severe cases, the central core collapses and a cavity forms throughout the length of the root (Photo 2). Lateral roots may be short, with blackened tips. In some situations the external surface of the root turns yellow or light brown and develops cracks; these symptoms mimic corky root disease. A more thorough analysis will require testing to eliminate the presence of the fungal pathogen Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. lactucae, the causal agent of Fusarium wilt. Because ammonium toxicity is associated with certain environmental and weather conditions, there are no effective management steps that can prevent this disorder.
Crown abrasion or wind-whipping: This problem is the result of physical damage to young lettuce plants. Strong winds will whip the lettuce crown and leaves back and forth, causing the crown to rub against the soil and become injured. These crowns will show characteristic pinching, drying, and collapse of tissue at the soil line of the lettuce (Photo 3), resulting in the stunting and wilting symptoms described above. In severe cases the lettuce plant can be completely girdled, resulting in the stubbing-off of the base of the plant; such plants will not develop to maturity (Photo 4). This “wind-whipping” of lettuce tends to be more severe in fields having coarser, sandier soils. Because wind-whipping is associated with certain environmental and weather conditions, there are no effective management steps that can prevent this disorder.
Not a disease: Neither ammonium toxicity nor wind-whipping is associated with any disease. While above-ground symptoms of both of these disorders may resemble damping-off diseases, lettuce in coastal California is not affected by damping-off pathogens such as Pythium or Rhizoctonia. Corky root disease usually does not result in the distinctive central core discoloration. Verticillium wilt may cause central core discoloration, but this disease only shows up on mature lettuce close to harvest and not on such young plants. The only disease that looks similar to ammonium toxicity is Fusarium wilt, which can infect young lettuce plants. However, Fusarium wilt always occurs in patches in a field and will not occur as individual plants that are randomly scattered throughout the planting.
Photo 1: Discoloration of the central core of the lettuce root is characteristic of ammonium toxicity.
Photo 2: Ammonium toxicity can cause the lettuce root to develop a central hollow cavity.
Photo 3: Wind-whipping results in a pinched, collapsed crown at the soil line of the lettuce plant.
Photo 4: Severe wind-whipping can completely girdle the lettuce crown.
- Author: Steven T. Koike
- Author: Carolee Bull
Since 2002, a severe leaf spot disease on parsley has occurred throughout central coastal California and particularly in Monterey County. Three different bacterial pathogens (Pseudomonas syringae pv. apii, P. syringae pv. coriandricola and an organism very closely related to P. viridiflava) have been associated with these outbreaks on parsley. Of interest to researchers and of potential importance to growers is the fact that two of these bacteria were already causing problems in coastal crops. Pseudomonas syringae pv. apii is the causal agent of northern bacterial blight of celery and P. syringae pv. coriandricola causes bacterial leaf spot of cilantro. Symptoms of all three diseases are similar and consist of small (usually less than ¼ inch in diameter) leaf spots that are noticeably angular in shape, with the edges of the spot restricted by leaf veins. The color of the leaf spots can vary from light tan to brown to dark brown. These bacterial leaf spots penetrate the entire leaf, so that the spot will be visible from both the top and bottom sides of the infected tissue (in contrast to chemical damage or abrasion in which the symptom is usually only seen from the top side of the leaf). See photos below.
Our research team is also investigating a possible new bacterial disease on fennel, as well. Because of these developments on commercially grown plants in the Apiaceae, we are seeking additional samples of foliar problems from any member of the Apiaceae crop group: celery, cilantro, dill, fennel, parsley, and others. Further clarification of the relationship between these various bacterial pathogens, determination of which hosts are susceptible to which pathogen, and other aspects may assist industry in managing these diseases.
The best samples will consist of diseased plants collected from several different locations of a field. Send samples to the UC Cooperative Extension diagnostic laboratory in Salinas: 1432 Abbott Street, Salinas CA, 93901 (phone 831-759-7550), attention Steve Koike.
Bacterial leaf spot of celery.
Bacterial leaf spot of cilantro.
Bacterial leaf spot of parsley.
- Author: Jim Correll
- Author: Steven T. Koike
Yet another new race of downy mildew (Peronospora farinosa f. sp. spinaciae) on spinach has been identified in California’s Salinas Valley. The type, or original, strain was initially designated as UA2209 and was first detected in May 2009. Subsequently, it was found in an increasing number of locations throughout California in 2009 and 2010. This race breaks the resistance of several important cultivars. The race has been characterized on a set of differential cultivars and was designated as race Pfs 12 by the International Working Group on Peronospora (IWGP). The working group is located in the Netherlands and is administered by Plantum NL.
Race Pfs 12 poses a threat to the spinach industry because it is particularly well-adapted to most modern hybrids with resistance to race 1-11, which have been widely planted in the past few years. Race 12 is distinct from race 11 because of its virulence on the differentials Campania and Avenger. The appearance of a new race is not completely unexpected because hybrids with resistance to races 1-11 have been planted on a large scale. Similar developments have taken place when races Pfs 5 (1996), Pfs 6 (1998), Pfs 7 (1999), Pfs 8 and 10 (2004), and Pfs 11 (2009) were identified and named. The occurrence of Pfs 12 will create strong interest for Pfs 1-12 resistant spinach cultivars from both growers and breeders.
The IWGP is a working group of Plantum NL consisting of spinach seed companies (Pop Vriend, Monsanto, Rijk Zwaan, Nunhems, Takii, Sakata, Bejo, Enza, Syngenta, Advanseed), Naktuinbouw, and the University of Arkansas. The efforts of the group are supported by research activities at the University of Arkansas and the University of California Cooperative Extension—Monterey County. The aim of the IWGP is to monitor and designate new races of downy mildew in spinach, and to promote a consistent and clear communication between the seed industry, researchers, and growers about all resistance-breaking races that are persistent enough to survive over several years, occur in a wide area, and cause a significant economic impact.
IWGP is monitoring new races continuously by testing field isolates on a fixed, common host differential set of cultivars that contains the full range of available resistances. Researchers all over the world are invited to join the IWGP initiative and use the common host differential set to identify new isolates. For California, the Correll-Koike team will continue to receive and test spinach downy mildew samples for growers, pest control advisors, and seed companies.
For more information on this subject you can contact Steven Koike (firstname.lastname@example.org), Jim Correll (email@example.com), Diederik Smilde (firstname.lastname@example.org), or IWGP chairperson Jan de Visser (JandeVisser@popvriend.nl).
Downy mildew is the most damaging disease of spinach in California and causes yellow and tan leaf lesions.
To identify downy mildew races, a series of spinach cultivars is grown and inoculated; races are identified based on which cultivars become diseased.
- Author: Jian Long Bi
The seedcorn maggot (Delia platura) is a pest of many vegetable crops such as cabbage, broccoli, turnip, radish, onion, beet, spinach, pepper, potato, beans and peas. Maggots usually feed on germinating seeds, roots or stems, resulting in reduction of seedling stands and contamination of the crop. They also occasionally feed on head lettuce to make it unmarketable (the maggots damaging spring head lettuce were officially identified as seedcorn maggots. For more information, please visit http://ucanr.org/blogs/SalinasValleyAgriculture/index.cfm?start=16, Spring Head Lettuce Crop Affected by Insect, Thursday April 29 2010). The damage is especially severe during cool and wet winter or spring, and in fields with high organic matter. The feeding damage often causes secondary infections by pathogen.
The seedcorn maggot overwinters as pupa in soil. The adult emerges in early spring and a female can lay an average of 270 eggs in the soil near plant stems. The female prefers to lay eggs in fresh-tilled soil with high moisture and organic matter. The eggs hatch in a few days and the maggots feed for 1 to 3 weeks on decaying organic matter or their host plants before pupation in soil.
Prevention is the best management strategy for this pest. Any cultural practice to speed up seed germination and plant growth will help to reduce crop loss. Attach drag chains behind the planter during seeding can reduce egg laying in the seed row. Fields with heavy manure or cover crop should be plowed at least 2 weeks before planting. Fields with a history of seedcorn maggot problem may apply an insecticidal seed treatment at planting. After damage is observed on the crop, rescue treatments are usually not effective. Prompt resetting or replanting of the damaged crop may be necessary if stand loss is severe.