With cucurbit crop canopies beginning to close within planting beds, cucumber, cantaloupe, and watermelon growers in Kentucky should be scouting for anthracnose in their plantings. Prevention, early identification, and management will help reduce plant losses.
Cause & Disease Development
Anthracnose on cucurbits is caused by the fungal pathogen Colletotrichum orbiculare. This pathogen can infect gourds, squash, and pumpkin, but is most common on cucumber and melons. This pathogen usually originates from weeds or crop debris from a previous year, but it can also be introduced on infested seed or transplants. Fungal spores are spread from leaf lesions via water splashing, such as rain or irrigation. Anthracnose is favored by moist conditions, warm temperatures, and high humidity. Once established, the disease can spread rapidly in dense plantings, and in severe cases, plants collapse.
Anthracnose begins as a foliar disease; however, all above ground plant parts may become infected.
On cucumber, the first symptoms appear as small, circular lesions on leaves, particularly in the central parts of the foliar canopy. Over time, lesions enlarge to become large tan to brown spots that can be somewhat spindle-shaped in appearance (Figure 1). Under humid conditions, fruit lesions may darken and salmon-pink spores may be observed, particularly on affected fruit. Spots may grow together (coalesce), resulting in extensive blight.
Stem lesions are tan-brown, sunken, and elongated. Lesions may also develop on maturing fruit and first appear as small, circular, sunken areas. Throughout fruit development, lesions expand to become the size of a quarter or larger (Figure 2).
Symptoms can differ slightly on watermelon: leaf lesions tend to be smaller, somewhat angular (particularly at leaf veins), and darker in color. On fruit, lesions may be cracked and semi-circular.
- Select pathogen-free seed or varieties with resistance to anthracnose. Multiple pathogen races exist, so varieties rated for resistance to multiple races will be most robust against the disease.
- Rotate fields out of any cucurbit for at least two growing seasons.
- Remove plant debris and weeds from the growing area.
- Avoid overhead watering to reduce leaf wetness.
- Use recommended plant spacing to facilitate air movement and leaf drying.
Begin a protectant spray program, utilizing chlorothalonil or mancozeb, no later than vine touch. Sprays may be applied every 7 to 10 days, or ideally with the help of MELCAST, a melon disease forecasting system. Include copper if bacterial disease becomes an issue.
Within 4 weeks of transplant (earlier if symptoms develop), introduce a systemic fungicide into the program. Systemic fungicides with good activity for anthracnose on cucurbits include those in FRAC groups 1, 3, 7, 9, and 11, as well as pre-mixes including these groups.
As always, all label recommendations must be followed when applying chemicals to crops. In particular, pay close attention to pre-harvest intervals. Also, some chemicals may be phytotoxic to melons under certain conditions; carefully read product labels prior to application.
- Anthracnose of Cucumber, Muskmelon, and Watermelon (Purdue Extension publication, BP-180-W)
- Foliar Disease Control Using MELCAST (Purdue Extension,PB-67-W)
- IPM Scouting Guide for Common Pests of Cucurbit Crops in Kentucky (ID-91)
- Sustainable Disease Management of Cucurbit Crops in the Home Garden (PPFS-VG-19)
- Home Vegetable Gardening (ID-128)
- Vegetable Production Guide for Commercial Growers (ID-36)
By: Kim Leonberger, Plant Pathology Extension Associate and Emily Pfeufer, Plant Pathology Extension Specialist