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Illinois pumpkin fields face cunning opponent
Date:6/28/2010

URBANA Wet conditions have Illinois pumpkin growers on the alert for signs of Phytophthora blight in their fields. This disease nearly destroyed the pumpkin industry in 1999, causing up to 100 percent crop losses in parts of the state. While it's not a new disease to this industry, it is the most devastating and it's already showing up in Illinois.

Mohammad Babadoost, University of Illinois Extension specialist in fruit and vegetable pathology, said, "An outbreak of Phytophthora blight in Illinois could devastate most of the country's supply of processed pumpkins and other cucurbit crops in Illinois."

Illinois-grown processing pumpkins account for nearly 95 percent of the pumpkins grown in the United States for use in pies, breads, and other foods. Illinois has approximately 25,000 acres of processing and jack-o-lantern pumpkins with a gross value exceeding $160 million per year. Not only is it the biggest vegetable industry in the state, it's also a great source of agrotourism drawing huge crowds to choose jack-o-lantern pumpkins from fields each fall.

This disease caused by Phytophthora capsici affects all cucurbits and peppers. Cucurbits include pumpkins, watermelon, honeydew, squash, zucchini, cucumbers and other vine vegetables. This disease affects both commercial and home gardeners, he said.

"Despite our attempts to prevent Phytophthora blight from spreading, it is doing exactly that," Babadoost said. "It's a nasty pathogen. I've seen it destroy entire fields. Once the fruit is infected, it's not suitable to process, eat, or carve."

This disease can infect the foliage or fruit at any stage of development. In fields, infections typically appear first in low areas where the soil remains wet for longer periods of time. Fruit rot generally starts on the area of the fruit that is in contact with the soil.

Babadoost and fellow researchers have devised an integrated pest manag
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Contact: Jennifer Shike
jshike@illinois.edu
217-244-0888
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
Source:Eurekalert  

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