The challenge: Pythium spp are well known pathogens of spinach, lettuce and other high value vegetable crops. Causing root tipping, discoloration, damping off and in severe infestations total crop loss. Losses can run to thousands of pounds.
The study: FungiAlert worked with a leading salad leaves producer, to help understand the causal agents of their crop losses. FungiAlert’s SporSenZ was deployed in growing crop tunnels and also irrigation water systems.
✔ The SporSenZ screen detected high populations of pathogenic P. sylvaticum, P. ultimum and P. rostratum, plus a wide range of beneficial micro-organisms in the soil of the production site.
✔ P. sylvaticum and beneficial fungi were also detected in irrigation water samples, indicating that there it is possible that the water could be a source of infection.
✔ Plants in the proximity of the testing site confirmed disease symptoms associated with the pathogens detected (i.e. root tipping and damping off).
✔ Definition down to the sub species level has enabled further studies on fungicide and cultural programmes to investigate the selection of certain more resistant strains.
✔ SporSenZ is also being used to monitor the performance of biocontrol agents, especially the implantation of fungi used for biological control of diseases.
✔ FungiAlert’s SporSenZ soil screening results correlated well with disease symptoms observed in salad leaves.
✔ FungiAlert’s SporSenZ screen is a useful and rapid diagnostic tool for the detection of pathogens and beneficials in high value salad crops.
✔ FungiAlert’s services are useful for designing effective disease management strategies in salad crops.
Future opportunities: FungiAlert is currently working with growers to help them monitor the effectiveness of disease management practices controlling pathogenic microbes, i.e. soil sterilization, fungicide and biocontrol programmes; and the impact of varying irrigation and rotational crops on the soil microbial population.