- Author: Richard Smith, UCCE Monterey
- Author: J.P. Dundore Arias, CSU Monterey Bay
- Author: Michael Cahn, UCCE Monterey
Pythium wilt of lettuce (Pythium uncinulatum) continued to be a significant production problem in lettuce fields in 2021. The levels of infection were not as extensive or severe as in 2020, but the damage caused by this disease was nonetheless problematic and serious in many fields. Pythium wilt was more frequently observed towards the end of the production season, and the development of noticeable foliar symptoms and severity of the disease appears to increase with higher temperatures. As an example, we observed growers successfully growing spring lettuce crops on blocks that were wiped out with Pythium wilt the prior fall, likely due to the lack of conducive conditions for the disease to develop. Given the rapid rise of Pythium wilt as a serious soilborne disease of lettuce in the Salinas Valley, there is a great need to better understand its biology and epidemiology to help determine the most promising means of managing it: cultural, chemical and/or varietal. In this write up we report on studies conducted in 2021 that included 1) evaluations of applications of fungicides and biologicals, 2) evaluation of effect of irrigation management on the incidence of the disease and 3) observations of varietal tolerance. Bottom line is that fungicides and biological control of Pythium wilt was measurable but limited in our studies. In the irrigation trials, we did not see higher incidence of Pythium wilt in the plots receiving greater quantities of irrigation water. There is good varietal tolerance to Pythium wilt in some commonly used lettuce varieties and to-date, this looks to be the most promising method for effectively reducing Pythium wilt losses.
Fungicide and Biologicals Evaluations: Twelve trials were conducted to test the efficacy of fungicides and biologicals for controlling Pythium wilt of lettuce. In ten trials, materials were applied over-the-top of the lettuce and incorporated into the soil by subsequent sprinkler irrigation applied within two days of application; in two trials, Ridomil Gold was injected into the drip system during an irrigation (see Table 1 for details). Top of the label rates of the fungicides and biologicals were used for each application to increase the chances of obtaining a signal from the materials. Fungicides tested in the over-the-top trials included Ridomil Gold, Previcur, Alliette and Ranman. Biologicals tested were Minuet (Bacillus subtilis) and LifeGuard (Bacillus mycoides). Over-the-top applications we made at-planting, thinning and/or at the rosette stage, but applications at each of these timings was not always possible in each trial and Table 1 shows the application timings for specific trials.
Planting dates for the trials ranged from June 12 to August 25. Trials were evaluated at or near harvest by counting all plants in each plot and then counting plants infected with Pythium wilt to get the percent infected plants. At times plots were also infected with Sclerotinia and a vascular wilt, and plants infected with these diseases were kept separate from the Pythium wilt totals. Trials planted before late July had levels of Pythium wilt that were too low to effectively evaluate (data not shown). However, trials planted in late July or after had greater incidence of disease. A confounding factor that affected the level of infection in later trials (Nos. 8, 9 and 10) was that by chance, the trials were located in fields planted with the green leaf variety Green Teen which appears to have significant tolerance to Pythium wilt and thus, these trials had little incidence of Pythium wilt (data not shown). Trial No. 7 provided the most useful data to evaluate the efficacy of over-the-top applications. The materials were applied at all three application timings and, on three evaluation dates, there was a trend indicating a lower percent of infected plants in each fungicide and biological treatment (Table 2). Although the trend was weak, it was consistent over each evaluation date. The data indicate a measurable but limited level of efficacy from over-the-top applications of these materials. Both Ridomil injection trials (Nos. 11 & 12) had significantly fewer infected plants in the Ridomil treated plots at harvest. Both fields had high levels of infection by Pythium wilt, and the reduction in infected plants was measurable but limited.
In summary, there was a modest level of control of Pythium wilt with the applied fungicides and biologicals. Injection into the drip system appeared more effective than over-the-top applications. It appears that evaluating a more effective means of applying fungicides and biologicals may be useful to see if better control may be achievable, especially in fields with history of high incidence of the diseases and during the fall lettuce crops when warm temperatures are expected. However, the challenge remains getting the material to move throughout the volume of soil occupied by the root system. This is important because infections with Pythium wilt can start on finer lateral roots or deeper in the soil and come up the tap root. Getting effective concentrations of a fungicide or biological material to the whole root system becomes a great challenge. Similarly, determining the right time of application requires further investigation.
Irrigation Evaluations: Pythium wilt is a water mold that can produce mobile spores. Excess water in the soil is thought to favor the development and spread of this organism. The goal of these trials was to evaluate if the volume of applied water might affect the incidence of Pythium wilt on lettuce. Four trials were conducted evaluating the impact of the amount of irrigation water applied during the crop cycle on the incidence of Pythium wilt. Trials were conducted in cooperating growers' fields. Irrigation regimes were established that compared 100% of crop ET (as calculated by CropManage) with 150 and 200% of crop ET. All trials were drip irrigated and the higher amounts of irrigation were applied in trials 1, 2 and 4 by using with separate manifolds equipped with a flow meter to measure the quantity of water applied. Trial 3 simply had two drip lines installed in the 200% ET treatment. At harvest, the plots were evaluated for the percent wilted plants (no. wilted plants/no. total plants). A sample of 10 plants from each plot was further evaluated to confirm if the cause of foliar wilting was Pythium wilt, Sclerotinia or a vascular wilt.
There were low levels of wilted plants in the first two trials (Table 3). In the later trials (3 & 4) there was significant wilting in the plots. However, there was no significant difference in the level of lettuce plants infected with Pythium wilt among the irrigation treatments in these trials.
Observations on Varietal Tolerance to Pythium Wilt:Formal variety trials were not conducted in 2021, but as opportunities to observe the response of varieties to Pythium wilt presented themselves, we made note of the level of infection in the varieties. One particularly dramatic example is shown in Table 4. At this site, there were two planting in which full beds (1 – 9 beds) of various varieties were planted in a field significantly infected with Pythium wilt. The percent of wilted plants in the different varieties, which ranged from 1.5 to 47.6% of total plants. The varieties Momentus and Copious had the lowest number of wilting plants and the lowest percent of Pythium infected plants, indicating good tolerance to this disease. In these two plantings, there were also plants infected with Sclerotinia and a vascular wilt resembling Fusarium wilt, though pathogen identity was not confirmed beyond visual observations. In some cases, it appeared that plants had both vascular wilt and Pythium wilt. These results indicate the co-occurrence of Pythium wilt and other soilborne diseases and raises the question whether they may interact while infecting a susceptible host. Clearly, more research is needed to better understand varietal tolerance of Pythium wilt and other associated soilborne diseases. In the end, varietal tolerance showed the greatest reduction in damage caused by Pythium wilt. The good news is that this tolerance is present in currently used breeding lines and hopefully can be quickly incorporated into other commonly used lettuce types.
Acknowledgements: We are grateful to the many cooperating growers and PCA's that helped us with these trials. We thank the California Leafy Greens Research Board for funding and thank the following research assistants for their help on these evaluations: Noemi Larios, Tom Lockhart, Tricia Love, Carlos Rodriguez Lopez and Yulissa Soto.
- Author: Alejandro Del Pozo-Valdivia
Since last week, I have been receiving samples with “red” aphids to get the identification. It turned out that this time, most of these ‘reddish' aphids were identified as the lettuce aphid, Nasonovia ribis-nigri (Fig. 1). To me, they look more red-orange; however, their distinct black marks on the abdomen and short cauda (finger-like, short appendage at the end of the abdomen) are some key ID features. These features help to differentiate the lettuce aphid from the other “red” aphid, the potato aphid Macrosiphum euphorbiae (Fig. 2). Yes, we do have two different species of red aphids!
More samples for aphid ID are still coming into the UC Cooperative Extension office. The pattern is still similar to last week. There are mostly lettuce aphids on the submitted samples. I was also able to notice that some samples have mixed populations between the lettuce and the potato aphids, where all the specimens were red.
We have several trial locations where we are scouting for aphids. So far, fields in Soledad have the largest number of aphids documented, as both alates (with wings, collected from yellow sticky cards) and wingless (collected from lettuce samples). If you need further information about the other scouting locations, or would like to double check your aphid ID, please contact or send samples to Alejandro Del-Pozo (email@example.com, 831-759-7359).
- Author: Alejandro Del Pozo-Valdivia
I have been receiving phone calls about the presence of “red aphids” in organic romaine lettuce that is resistant to the lettuce aphid, Nasonovia ribis-nigri (Hemiptera: Aphididae, Fig. 1). The lettuce aphid is considered a difficult pest to manage. This aphid can be green as well as red, and will be usually found in large colonies inside the heart of the lettuce head. Being inside the lettuce head protects these aphids from predators and parasitoids; and their presence is considered a contaminant when heads are harvested.
However, none of the samples that were submitted to the UC Cooperative Extension diagnostic laboratory were identified as the lettuce aphid. What are those “red aphids”?
First of all, aphids could have different color morphs within the same species. Therefore, relying only on color to identify aphids is not the ideal character to tell apart these pest species.
Submitted “red” aphid samples were identified as either: 1) the potato aphid, Macrosiphum euphorbiae, and 2) the foxglove aphid, Aulacorthum solani. Potato aphid has both the green and the red color morphs (Fig. 2). On the other hand, the foxglove aphid is usually green (Fig. 3); but infections of a naturally occurring Entomophthora fungus will make the specimens look like reddish. This sort of red coloration is due to the sporulation of the fungus from the dead aphid stuck on the leaves (Fig. 4).
If you are managing organic lettuce with resistance to the lettuce aphid and you find red aphids, it is important to consider other features beside color. Additional information on how to identify aphid species infesting lettuce can be found at http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/selectnewpest.lettuce.html. If you would like to have a second opinion on your identification, you can always call and/or send your sample to the UC Cooperative Extension office in Salinas.
- Author: Shimat Villanassery Joseph
Springtail (Protaphorura fimata) (Figure 1) is a serious pest of lettuce in the northern part of Salinas Valley of California. The direct seeded young lettuce seedlings in fields with high densities of springtail show retarded or stunted growth and do not emerge in a synchronous pattern (Figure 2). Springtails are reported to feed on soil fungi, decaying plant materials and live roots.
Springtails attack the germinating seeds of the lettuce, but it is not certain if irregular or inconsistent plant stand is due to the persistent feeding by springtail on both germinating and developing seedling stages of lettuce. Springtail continue to occur in the soil beyond 30 days after planting. Knowing the most vulnerable stage(s) of lettuce to springtail feeding will help in determining the best timing for control measure intervention to achieve a uniform lettuce stand.
Lettuce fields are heavily irrigated at least once before and up to three weeks after planting the seeds for uniform seed germination and seedling establishment. However, the behavioral response of springtail to feeding injury on lettuce under high soil moisture condition has not yet been studied in the central coast of California.
Similarly, the temperature has a profound impact on lettuce plant development as well as the growth and activities of springtail. Springtail has been found causing crop losses during February to May in the Salinas Valley and beyond June, springtail related problems are not widely reported. Perhaps slower lettuce seed germination and subsequent development during cooler seasons (January to May) is the pre-disposing factor as seedlings are exposed to springtails for an extended time frame than during the rest of the year. The relationship between temperature and springtail feeding of germinating lettuce seeds has not been investigated.
A study was conducted to determine the effect of germinating stages of lettuce seeds (up to 7 days after planting), soil temperature and moisture to springtail feeding injury.
Germinating seeds or one day old lettuce seedlings were the most vulnerable stage to springtail feeding, resulting in reduction in seedling growth. Thus, it appears that once the roots are established in the soil, lettuce is less susceptible to springtail feeding injury. Because the germinating phase of the plants is more likely to be injured, springtail monitoring activity should start prior to planting the seeds to determine the presence of springtail in the soil. Previous studies showed that, beet or potato slice baits attract springtail if placed in the top layer of the soil; thus, these baits could be used for monitoring springtail activity in the soil. If the soil is not moist, the baits may not capture springtail and springtail activity may go undetected.
When the experiments were conducted with germination phase in the temperatures as low as 41°F, springtail feeding was still evident. This suggests that although the seed germination and seedling development is progressing slowly in the cooler temperatures, springtail can be still active in feeding if there is sufficient moisture in the soil. Also, this suggests that lettuce seedlings might require prolonged protection from springtail with additional insecticide sprays until the seedlings are established in the cooler temperatures especially in spring and early summer (January to May). In the later part of summer and fall, the temperatures are higher than 60°F even at nights, which allows the seeds to germinate and develop quickly and not providing springtail to persistently feed and cause economic damage. In these circumstances, an at-plant application of insecticide is likely to provide adequate springtail control and multiple applications may not be required.
High moisture content in the soil will favor springtail feeding on the germinating lettuce seeds. In the Salinas Valley, before the lettuce seeds are planted, fields are pre-irrigated to aid land preparation and bed shaping. It has been observed that the springtail density increased from the sub-surface of soil when the field was recently irrigated or after a rain event. This cultural practice which maintains high moisture levels for seed germination on the sub-surface profiles of the soil might be favoring the faster buildup of springtail populations. Springtail captures in bait traps were greater immediately after irrigation.
Clearly, this study demonstrates that early lettuce seed development stages are the most vulnerable to springtail feeding injury. Moisture has a profound effect on springtail feeding on germinating lettuce seeds. This study also suggests that springtail can attack the germinating lettuce seeds at all growing temperatures in the Salinas Valley, although the seed germination and subsequent seedling development at cooler temperatures would increase the vulnerability of lettuce seeds to springtail feeding. This information provides insights not only on the timing of protection but the extent of protection under various temperature ranges also in managing springtail in the Salinas Valley. Plants growing the cooler temperature need prolonged protection for springtail if adequate moisture is present in the top soil of the bed. In the warmer temperatures, seed development would occur rather quickly which suggests that prolonged protection against springtail is not necessary. These results warrant the need for more field studies on protecting lettuce seeds from springtail in the cooler temperatures especially during spring and early summer lettuce plantings in the Salinas Valley.
If interested in the details of the study, please read the published article:
- Author: Shimat Villanassery Joseph
A series of laboratory and field studies were conducted to determine if the insecticides coated lettuce seeds are an option to control key lettuce pests in the Salinas Valley: springtail (Protaphorura fimata; Fig. 1A), leafminers (Liriomyza spp.; Fig. 1B) and western flower thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis; Fig. 1C). In addition, a laboratory test was conducted to determine if “primed” lettuce seeds reduced springtail feeding damage.
Springtails. Springtail (P.fimata) is soil dwelling primitive arthropod primarily attacks germinating lettuce seeds, reducing the plant vigor or death, which cause patchy or area-wide stand loss. Most springtails possess a forked organ (furcula) in the rear-end, which is extended forward and backward to jump; hence, the common name, springtail. However, the springtail species, sampled from lettuce fields causing the stand loss, does not have furcula. This means it cannot jump.
The head lettuce seed ‘Regency' was coated with clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and spinosad (Table 1). The seeds were coated by Dr. Alan Taylor at Cornell University and coating technique mirrored commercial seed coating procedure. Laboratory studies were conducted in containers with springtail (P. fimata) infested soil. The data show that all three insecticides spinosad, clothianidin and thiamethoxam treated seeds significantly reduced the incidence of springtail feeding injury when compared with untreated seeds. Among insecticides, superior performance in efficacy was noted in the following order: clothianidin > thiamethoxam > spinosad (Fig. 2). Two field trials were conducted against springtails using the same seed treatments, however, the springtail pressure was so low that conclusive data were not obtained. Clothianidin (NipSit) in particular, is now registered on head lettuce and could be used for springtail control. This is an important information in that springtails attack the germinating seeds of lettuce especially in the spring time. During spring, we get some rain showers and the wet conditions in the field after planting makes insecticide application along seed line almost impossible. If the insecticide coated seeds are planted, the grower or PCA could avoid at-plant insecticide application which is typically targeted toward springtails. Application of insecticides such as neonicotinoids and pyrethroids along the seed line will protect the germinating seeds from springtail feeding. More field studies will be conducted in the following years to validate these results in the field.
Studies were also conducted to determine if there are any varietal effects exists (Table 2). The much needed attribute for springtail control is faster seed germination so that the springtail would not get sufficient time to feed and cause seed mortality. “Primed” lettuce seeds are used for uniform and a quick germination (cut short 2 to 3 days than “unprimed” seeds). “Primed” and “unprimed” seeds were evaluated to determine if the quick seed development would reduce springtail damage. Data show that germinating “primed” seeds were impacted with springtail feeding affecting their germination and were not different from the “unprimed” seeds when the springtail pressure was moderate to high (Fig. 3). The seeds used for this experiment were from same seed lot (“primed” and “unprimed”) for a lettuce variety. Also, there was no clear variety difference in springtail feeding damage.
Leafminers and western flower thrips. The leafminer eggs are laid within the surface layer of the leaf. The eggs hatch within couple of days and the maggots mine through the surface layer of the leaves. The egg laying and maggot mining creates stippling and mining injuries which make the leaves unmarketable. Although UC recommends few insecticides such as Agri-mek (Abamectin), Trigard (Cyromazine), Aza-direct (Azadirachtin) and Entrust (Spinosad), the management of leafminers are primarily relied upon on Agri-mek applications.
Thrips is another of the major pest of lettuce, and combination of direct feeding injury and viral disease [thrips-transmitted tospoviruses [Impatiens Necrotic Spot Virus (INSV)] can cause significant losses in lettuce production. In addition, because most of the export markets have set higher standards on prevalence of live and dead thrips in the produce, the lettuce industry is constantly battling ways to significantly reduce thrips in the produce targeted for export.
A replicated-field trial was conducted to determine the efficacy of seed coated insecticides (Table 1) on leafminers and western flower thrips incidence and their infestation. The results show that insecticide seed coating may not be an effective option for leafminers and thrips control in head lettuce (Table 3 and 4) under the conditions this experiment was conducted. There was no reduction of leafminer or thrips feeding with insecticide coated seeds compared with untreated control. Further evaluations under varying conditions might be necessary to validate the consistency of these results.