Prepare for Cucurbit Downy Mildew

Andy Wyenandt, Specialist in Vegetable Pathology, Rutgers University;

This article was originally published in the Rutgers Plant and Pest Advisory

Cucurbit downy mildew was reported on cucumber in southern New Jersey on 11 June and in Lancaster County, PA on 23 June. These are the first two reports of CDM in the region to date. All cucumber and cantaloupe growers should be scouting on a daily basis and initiating preventative fungicide programs. For a review of CDM and its control please see below.

In 2004, cucurbit downy mildew re-emerged in the US with a vengeance causing significant losses in cucurbit production. In most years prior to this, concern for CDM control was minimal, since the pathogen arrived late in the growing season (in more northern regions), or the pathogen caused little damage, or never appeared. After 2004, with significant losses at stake, and with very few fungicides labeled for its proper control, CDM became a serious threat to cucurbit production. Importantly, at the time, cucumber varieties with very good levels of CDM resistance were no longer resistant, suggesting a major shift in the pathogen population. Research done over the past 15 years has led to a better understanding of the pathogen. Recent research has determined that the CDM falls into two separate clades: Clade I and Clade II.

Some CDM (Pseudoperonospora cubensis) isolates fall into Clade I which predominately infect watermelon, pumpkin, and squash, where CDM isolates in Clade II predominately infect cucumber and cantaloupe. Research suggests that isolates in Clade II can quickly become resistant to specific fungicides (NCSU). Most cucumber varieties are resistant to Clade 1 isolates, but there is no resistance currently available for Clade 2 isolates. For pickling cucumber the varieties, Citadel and Peacemaker, are tolerant to clade 2 isolates. For slicing cucumbers, the varieties SV3462CS and SV4142CL are tolerant to Clade 2 isolates. All organic and greenhouse growers are encouraged to use tolerant varieties since chemical control options are very limited (NCSU). An extended list of cucumber varieties with CDM resistance from the University of Florida can be found here. For the past decade, researchers from around the US have been closely monitoring and forecasting the progress of CDM through a website hosted by NCSU. The CDMpipe website is currently in the process of an upgrade and will now be hosted by Penn State University. All cucurbit growers are encouraged to sign up to the CDMpipe website to help them know what cucurbit crops are being infected (and where) and to follow the forecasting to know where the pathogen may move to next. As a note, in recent years, CDM control with certain fungicides has varied significantly depending on the cucurbit host and geographic region. This is extremely important since two clades of the pathogen are potentially present (affecting host range) as well as having a potential impact on control strategies. How do you know which clade may be present on your farm? Follow the reports. If CDM is mostly present in cucumber crops as it works its way up the east coast, then you are most likely to see it infect cucumber and cantaloupe on your farm first. Scout your fields regularly, especially if CDM is in the immediate region. Pay very close attention to symptom development and on what cucurbit crop(s) you see it on, this is especially important if you grow more than one cucurbit crop. Like cucurbit powdery mildew, once CDM arrives in the region preventative fungicide applications are necessary.

Fungicides for CDM Control
heir cucurbit fields on a weekly basis, note the efficacy, or lack thereof, they are seeing in the field, and incorporate the use of as many different FRAC groups as possible to help mitigate fungicide resistance development.

Fungicide Programs for CDM Control
An example of a fungicide program for CDM control in the mid-Atlantic region might look like this, where a CDM specific fungicide from a different FRAC group is used on weekly basis:

A – B – C – D – E

where A= Gavel (zoxamide, 22 + mancozeb, M03); B= Orondis Opti (oxathiapiprolin, 49 + chlorothalonil, M05); C= Ranman (cyazofamid, FRAC code 21); D= Orondis Ultra (oxathiapiprolin, 49 + mandipropamid, 40); E= Curzate (cymoxanil, 27)

Not all of the fungicides listed above are labeled for all cucurbit crops. Some fungicides, such as the Orondis products have limited number of applications. Growers will need to refer to local recommendations and the label for crop specifics. Remember, the label is the law.

A protectant fungicide such as chlorothalonil or mancozeb should be added (if not already included) to the tank mix with each high-risk fungicide to reduce selection pressure and to help control other important diseases such as anthracnose and plectosporium blight. All growers should follow use recommendations on labels and avoid overusing one mode of action, even if it works well. If loss of efficacy is present, the grower should avoid using that particular fungicide (FRAC group) for CDM control the rest of the growing season.

Growers should remember that fungicides specifically labeled for CDM control won’t control CPM, and fungicides labeled for CPM control won’t control CDM. Therefore, carefully following the disease monitoring and forecasting website, choosing varieties with CDM resistance, paying close attention to host crops, scouting fields on a regular basis, noting fungicide efficacy, and following proper fungicide resistant management guidelines remain critically important for successful CDM control.

For more information on the specific fungicides recommended for CDM control on cucurbit crops please see the 2022/2023 Mid-Atlantic Commercial Vegetable Production Recommendations.