Managing Cucurbit Powdery Mildew

Powdery mildew colonies on the lower leaf surface.

Powdery mildew has begun to appear on pumpkins and other cucurbits in Ohio. Signs of infection are small circular powdery growths on either side of the leaf. These spots enlarge and can eventually cover most of the leaf surface and kill the leaves. Stems and leaf petioles are also susceptible, but the disease is not observed on fruit. In pumpkins, powdery mildew may also attack the “handles”, which can be further damaged by secondary pathogens. It is time to start scouting cucurbits for powdery mildew.

Powdery mildew is managed using disease-resistant varieties and fungicides. Pumpkin and squash varieties vary in resistance to powdery mildew; in general, the more susceptible the variety, the more fungicide needed. The choice of fungicide is important because insensitivity to overused fungicides is common. It is critical that a fungicide resistance management program is followed. Alternate fungicides in different FRAC (Fungicide Resistance Action Committee) groups, indicating different modes of action against the fungus. Fungicide applications should begin when the disease first appears and incidence is low. Fungicides that are labeled for use against cucurbit powdery mildew can be found in the Midwest Vegetable Production Guide for Commercial Growers; product ratings and FRAC codes are on page 129. Vivando (U8), Quintec and fungicides containing FRAC 3 group active ingredients (Aprovia Top, Inspire Super, Luna Experience, Procure, Rally) have fewer reported failures due to fungicide resistance than others listed in the Guide and are recommended for Ohio (see table below – click too enlarge). These products should be tank-mixed with a protectant fungicide such as chlorothalanil (Bravo and similar products), copper- or sulfur-based products.

Our evaluations of efficacy of powdery mildew fungicides in Ohio in 2018 indicated that Inspire Super, Procure, Rally, Aprovia Top and Quintec provided very good control of powdery mildew on pumpkins in three locations.  Bravo Weather Stik and Fontelis provided moderate control and Pristine, Merivon Xemium and Torino provided poor control.

A list of products for powdery mildew management in organic cucurbits prepared by Dr. Meg McGrath of Cornell University can be found here.

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