- Author: Steven T. Koike
The cucumber crop in central coast California is a minor crop, with only a modest acreage planted annually. However, a major disease threatens this commodity that is grown both out in the field and inside greenhouses. In recent years, a very aggressive, destructive strain of downy mildew (the pathogen is Pseudoperonospora cubensis) has devastated cucumber plantings. Leaves first develop angular shaped lesions that turn yellow. Later, the tissue in these lesions dies and becomes brown (photo 1). In most cases the diagnostic purple gray mycelium and spores develop on the leaf undersides (photo 2). As disease progresses, entire leaves decline and the plants collapse due to severe infection. Downy mildew also infects squash and watermelon, though this current problem is most problematic on cucumber.
California growers are hardly alone in this situation. Last year the aggressive downy mildew damaged cucumber crops in various parts of the USA, along the eastern seaboard stretching from New York down to Florida, and from there extending west as far as Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Louisiana, and Texas. For California, downy mildew was reported on production cucumber in the central coast and other regions, and on seed cucumber crops in the upper San Joaquin Valley.
Management of this apparently new cucumber strain is difficult. Organic producers have few options because protectant sprays do not appear to help, and suitable resistant cultivars have not yet been identified. For conventional growers, early preventative sprays should be made (see the UC IPM website: http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/r116101611.html). This cucumber situation is yet another case illustrating how this group of pathogens is able to change and cause problems for growers. Central coast growers are already very familiar with the new races and aggressive outbreaks of lettuce and spinach downy mildews.
Plant Pathologist Steven Koike is monitoring the California cucumber situation and is collaborating with researchers in Michigan and North Carolina. He is interested in hearing about downy mildew outbreaks on cucumber in California (phone 831-759-7350; firstname.lastname@example.org).
Photo 1: Angular lesions on cucumber caused by downy mildew.
Photo 2: Downy mildew lesions support the purple growth of the pathogen.