Do not underestimate this plant killer!

by Matthew Lowe, Sustainable Plant Systems / Agronomy major

Did you know that mold can attack plants? White mold (Sclerotinia) is a disease that can attack many plant species and cause severe yield loss. White mold is most commonly found in areas that have cool, moist conditions. Some of the most economically important hosts of this disease are soybeans, most vegetable crops, tobacco, sunflowers, canola, and stone fruits.

What should I look for?

It is important to diagnose plant diseases accurately and quickly. Early signs of white mold are water soaked lesions and possible above ground tissue shredding on the plant. White mold will then produce white colored mycelium, a cotton looking substance, on the plant.

When the mold is ready to start reproduction, it forms mycelium clumps. These mycelium clumps will eventually form into reproductive structures called sclerotia which are hard black structures. These sclerotia overwinter in the soil to infect future crops.

What can I do to control white mold?

A few options for management of white mold include crop rotation, canopy management, irrigation control, fungicides, and weed control. Crop rotation and weed control removes host plants, however, it takes several years of non-host crop planting for full control.

Canopy management and irrigation control removes the diseases ideal environmental conditions by keeping moisture levels under control. Fungicides are another good option to prevent infection or after infection when other controls cannot save a harvest.

White mold is an easily overlooked disease that can become economically crippling if left to run rampant. It is important to diagnose this disease correctly and put a stop to it before reproduction starts to protect your crops this year and for years to come.

For more information go to:
APSnet > White mold (Sclerotinia)

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This blog post was an assignment for Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.

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