Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Apple Rots Common This Time of Year: Bitter Rot is the Most Prevalent

As apple harvent gets into full swing, many growers and backyard orchardists are encountering a variety of fruit rots.  Some of these rots are initiated by insect entry wounds or hail, and others are caused by fungal pathogens.

The most common of the fungal fruit rots is bitter rot.  

Initial infections begin as early as bloom and continue until about one month after petal fall.  Early symptoms are small, slightly sunken lesions that eventually develop concentric rings (bulls eye pattern).  Under moist conditions, spores turn a distinct salmon color.  Cutting into infected fruit reveals a V-shaped internal rot.

The fungus overwinters in mummified fruit, crevices in bark, and dead wood such as fire blight damaged tissue.  Removal of mummified fruit, cankers, and dead wood helps reduce inoculum for the following season.  Diseased fruit should be discarded immediately.  Fungicides are only effective with good sanitation, so these cultural practices are a necessary step in disease prevention and control.

Current recommendations indicate fungicide applications soon after petal fall (no later than first cover) and continue until harvest.  Fungicides  captan, mancozeb (dithane, manzate, penncozeb), polyram, and ziram are recommended on 10-14 day schedules.  Note:   Symptoms do not always occur immediately after infection, and it is sometimes late in the season before symptoms appear.  However, fruit should be protected in the early stages of development.

Some cultivars are more resistant or tolerant of bitter rot disease than others.  Cultivar susceptibility table available at .

Monday, August 27, 2012

Blueberry Mosaic Virus Detected in Kentucky

Blueberry mosaic virus was confirmed in a blueberry orchard in central Kentucky this summer.  This is the first report of blueberry mosaic in the state.  The virus has not previously been found in southern states, but it has been reported in Michigan, Indiana, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. 

Formerly considered a “disorder,” blueberry mosaic has only recently been classified as a virus.  Not much else is known about it.  Highbush cultivars ‘Bluecrop,’ ‘Pioneer,’  ‘Concord,’  ‘Earlibule,’ and ‘Jersey’ are among the susceptible cultivars.  Virus symptoms have not been reported in rabbiteye blueberry.  Limited research has been conducted thus far, but it is under evaluation by a team of researchers at the USDA-ARS Marucci Center in New Jersey.


Foliar symptoms include mottling and mosaic-patterned characteristics on leaves.  Patterns range from mild to brilliant with yellow, orange, and/or red colorations (see photos).  Mosaic symptoms are not always produced each year, and environmental conditions may affect symptom development.  It is possible that during cool seasons, symptoms are more pronounced.  Thus, under ideal conditions, symptoms may appear suddenly, and it may appear that spread is rapid.

Infected plants often result in reduced fruit load.  Yield losses of 15% have been reported on ‘Bluecrop’ in Michigan.  Fruit on infected plants have been shown to ripen later than noninfected fruit, and fruit quality is low.


The vector (carrier) of the virus is not known.  Researchers report that blueberry mosaic is not transmissible by mechanical means (i.e. pruners).  However, the virus is graft transmitted.  Because virus particles are systemic (dispersed throughout the vascular system), once infected, all plant parts are infected, even when symptoms are absent.  Thus, cuttings should never be taken from a virus-infected plant.

As mentioned above, the vector of blueberry mosaic virus is not known.  Therefore, growers are encouraged to destroy infected plants until it is clear on how the virus spreads.  Whether an insect vector is involved is yet to be determined.

Current research indicates that the virus is slow-spreading (if at all) under field conditions.  However, in Michigan, spread is rapid. So far, the reason is unknown.


There is no cure for plant viruses, including blueberry mosaic.  Growers should remove infected plants and destroy them by burning or burying.  Remove all roots within soil, as well.  Scout orchards, especially nearby plants, several times during the growing season.  Contact a local extension agent if a plant appears suspicious.

Most importantly, purchase plants from a reputable grower.  Visit nurseries before plant purchase and ask to inspect parent plants.  Furthermore, a virus-free certification is always worth the extra cost. 


Fungicide-Resistant Downy Mildew Detected in Kentucky Vineyard

This summer, a grape grower in central Kentucky reported persistent downy mildew in his vineyard.  He noted that regular applications of Abound and Pristine fungicides failed to manage the disease.  After laboratory analysis, the pathogen was deemed completely resistant to the two fungicides at the lowest recommended rates and 85% resistant at the highest recommended rates. 

What is fungicide resistance?

In the simplest terms, pathogens become resistant to fungicides when the chemical no longer manages disease symptoms.  However, even the most effective fungicides fail to completely eradicate a pathogen population.  There are always a few fungal spores or other fungal inoculum that survive the pesticide application.  Those survivors may be the result of ineffective spray coverage, but individual pathogens may have a trait that provides some type of resistance to the fungicide.  Think back to high school biology when we learned the theory of “survival of the fittest.”  Unfortunately, a single survivor can multiply into thousands of individuals while passing that resistance gene onto its offspring, much the way our parents passed on eye color to us. 


How did resistance develop?

Consider that it is highly unlikely that a fungal population will incur resistance to more than one chemical type, at least over the short term.  As a fungal population can become resistant to a single chemical, growers should rotate sprays with a different chemical group.  These chemical rotations can become confusing, and many growers do not fully understand the concept of chemical groups. 

 Chemical groups are classified by biochemical mode of action, not necessarily by active ingredient.  For example, within the strobilurin group of fungicides, active ingredients include azoxystrobin, pyraclostrobin, trifloxystrobin, and kresoxim-methyl, all of which are quinone-outside inhibitors.  Because information on biochemical modes of action can be confusing for growers, the Fungicide Resistance Action Committee (FRAC) developed numeric codes that represent these chemical groups.  Strobilurins are classified as FRAC group 11.  These codes appear on the top right side of all pesticide labels.  Thus, growers may simply refer to the coded chemical group number on labels as opposed to depending upon complex information such as mode of action.

Considering that all fungicides within the same group have the same mode of action, it is clear that if a grower fails to properly rotate fungicide groups, fungicide resistance risk is high.  Additionally, fungicide labels indicate the maximum number of applications allowed per growing season.  A maximum of four applications of strobilurins are allowed per growing season.  The grower mentioned above used Abound and Pristine fungicides consistently over a two-year period, exceeding the maximum number of applications and failing to rotate with a different chemical group.  This rapidly induced the development of a resistant population of the downy mildew pathogen.

Abound fungicide is classified as a FRAC Group 11 fungicide.  The chemical group code appears on the top right corner of fungicide labels.
How does a grower know if a resistant population developed?
Pathogen populations do not begin as 100% resistant.  In fact, resistance develops gradually.  Thus, growers should be aware of efficacy and disease control.  If a product(s) begins to become less effective over time, he should contact his local Extension agent immediately. 
What next?
If resistant pathogen populations develop within a vineyard, growers should immediately stop using the fungicide in question and all others in the same FRAC group.  With the assistance with an Extension agent or specialist, growers should identify other fungicides that will effectively manage disease.  In the aforementioned case, the grower stopped using strobilurin fungicides and substituted a phosphorous acid fungicide (ProPhyt, Rampart, etc.) for management of downy mildew.  If strobilurins are used for management of other diseases, tank-mix with another product (within a different FRAC group) that provides downy mildew control.
More Information
Fungicide resistance can appear complicated, so growers should not hesitate to seek assistance in development of a spray program.  Contact University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension agents or specialists for assistance.