Evaluation of Altered Cucumber Plant Architecture as a Means to Reduce Phytophthora Fruit Rot

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  • 1 Michigan State Univ., Horticulture, East Lansing, MI 48824
  • 2 Michigan State Univ., Horticulture, East Lansing, MI 48824

Phytophthora capsici fruit rot is an increasingly serious disease affecting cucumber production throughout the Eastern U.S. The absence of genetically resistant cultivars and rapid development of fungicide resistance makes it imperative to develop integrated disease management strategies. Cucumber fruits which come in direct contact with the soil-borne pathogen are usually located under the canopy where moist, warm conditions favor disease development. We sought to examine whether variations in plant architecture traits that influence canopy structure or fruit contact with the soil make conditions less favorable for disease development. As a `proof of concept' to test whether an altered canopy could facilitate P. capsici control, we tested the effect of increased row spacing and trellis culture on disease occurrence in the pickling cucumber `Vlaspik.' Trellis plots indicated that removal of fruit contact from soil reduced disease occurrence. Currently available variation in plant architecture was tested using nearly-isogenic genotypes varying for indeterminate (De), determinate (de), standard leaf (LL), and little leaf (ll) traits. Although differences were observed in peak mid-day temperatures under the different canopies, there were not differences in disease occurrence among the genotypes. A collection of 150 diverse cucumber accessions identified to serve as a representative sample of the germplasm, was observed for possible variation in plant architecture. Variation was observed for an array of traits including main stem length, internode length, leaf length and width, and number of branches. Interesting types that may allow for more open canopies include reduced branching habit and compact/bushy growth.

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