Evaluation of Altered Cucumber Plant Architecture as a Means to Reduce Phytophthora capsici Disease Incidence on Cucumber Fruit

in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science

Fruit rot induced by Phytophthora capsici Leonian is an increasingly serious disease affecting pickling cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.) production in many parts of the United States. The absence of genetically resistant cultivars and rapid development of fungicide resistance makes it imperative to develop integrated disease management strategies. Cucumber fruit which come in direct contact with the soil-borne pathogen are usually located under the canopy where moist and 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 could make conditions less favorable for disease development. As an extreme test for 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'. Temperature under the canopy was lowest in trellis plots, intermediate in increased spacing plots, and highest in control plots. Disease occurrence in the trellis plots was significantly lower than in other treatments, indicating that preventing fruit contact with the soil reduced disease occurrence. The effect of 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. Plants with standard architecture had higher peak mid-day temperatures under the canopy and greater levels of P. capsici infection; however, levels of disease occurrence were high for all genotypes. Screening a collection of ≈150 diverse cucumber accessions identified to serve as a representative sample of the germplasm, revealed variation for an array of architectural traits including main stem length, internode length, leaf length and width, and number of branches; values for `Vlaspik' were in the middle of the distribution. Plant architectures that may allow for more open canopies, including reduced branching habit and compact growth, were tested for disease incidence. One of the compact lines (PI 308916), which had a tendency to hold young fruit off the ground, exhibited lower disease occurrence. The reduced disease occurrence was not due to genetic resistance, suggesting that architecture which allows less contact of fruit with the soil could be useful for P. capsici control for pickling cucumber.

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Contributor Notes

Corresponding author: phone: 517-355-5191 xt 1431; fax: 517-353-0890; email: grumet@msu.edu
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