Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Chrysanthemum Dieback – Rhizoctonia is Likely the Culprit

Dense canopies and frequent overhead irrigation of fall mums create ideal conditions for many plant pathogens, especially web blight and stem rot.  In greenhouses, plants grow under tight spacing and high humidity.  Furthermore, plant compactness creates microclimates within canopies.  These extreme conditions are conducive for growth of the web blight and stem rot pathogen, Rhizoctonia solani.  Unfortunately, some of these diseased plants make their way into retail centers and our front porches.

Figure 1– Stems and crowns infected by Rhizoctonia solani result in dieback in the upper canopy.  Photo by NC State.

Symptoms:  Stem or leaf dieback is often the first recognizable symptom.  This dieback is caused by infections of stems at the base of shoots and branches or by infection of roots and lower stems (Figure 1).  Opening up the canopy will often reveal stem lesions and/or webs or strands of fungal tissue (mycelia) (Figure 2).  Infected leaves appear water-soaked or necrotic, often becoming matted together with the web-like mycelia.

Figure 2– Under wet conditions, Rhizoctonia may spread to upper plant parts, inducing web blight symptoms.

Disease Management:  Both cultural practices and fungicides are required for proper disease management.  Keep foliage dry by avoiding overhead watering, by increasing air circulation (wider spacing, increased sunlight), and by practicing strict sanitation (remove diseased tissue and clean up fallen leaves).  Homeowners may use propiconazole (Green Light Systemic Fungicide), mancozeb (Mancozeb or Dithane), or captan (captan) fungicides.  See the Homeowner’s Guide to Fungicides.  Commercial growers and landscape professionals may take advantage of a wider array of fungicides, such as the active ingredients azoxystrobin, fludioxonil, iprodione, PCNB, pyraclostrobin, thiophanate-methyl, trifloxystrobin, and triflumizole.  Refer to the following publications for specific trade names:  Fungicides for Management of Diseases in Commercial Greenhouse Ornamentals and Fungicides for Management of Landscape Woody Ornamental Diseases.  Consult labels for specific information.

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