Sally A. Miller
Randall C. Rowe
Richard M. Riedel
Gummy stem blight is an important disease of squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, watermelons and other field-grown cucurbit crops. It can occur at any growth stage, from seedlings to mature plants. This disease on fruits, in the field or in storage, is called black rot. The disease also can cause extensive damage to all above-ground parts of greenhouse-grown cucumbers.
Gummy stem blight occurs on all plant parts except roots. Leaf symptoms appear as dark yellow or reddish-brown lesions in various shapes (Figure 1). Lesions begin at leaf margins and extend rapidly back into the leaf blade, causing curling, shriveling, and death of the entire leaf. Pimple-like structures (pycnidia) may be found in leaf lesions by close inspection with a hand lens.
Figure 1. Symptoms of gummy stem blight|
on pumpkin leaves. Note marginal
Fruit symptoms vary among crops. Winter squash (Hubbard, butternut, etc.) are likely to show symptoms primarily on fruit or older leaves. Black rot symptoms appear as a brown to black rot of the rind, flesh, and seed cavity accompanied by heavy white and black fungus growth. Lesions may develop anywhere on the fruit, first as water-soaked areas dotted with pycnidia that ooze yellowish masses of spores. On Hubbard-type squash, the brownish-black rot extends down into the flesh and seed cavity. Seeds often become dotted with small black pycnidia. On butternut squash, lesions are brown with irregular ring patterns and are superficial over the skin surface, not penetrating into the flesh or seed cavity (Figure 2). Infection usually occurs in the field, causing water-soaked, cracked, brownish cankers on the vines. A reddish gum may develop in these cracks, although this alone is not a diagnostic sign. (Fusarium and scab may also produce a reddish gum.) Fruit may decay at the site of attachment as a result of the fungus invading the stem. Butternut squash and gourds may develop black rot before harvest, but Hubbard squash are resistant during growth and do not show symptoms until the storage period. Fruit rot on greenhouse cucumbers usually begins at the blossom end of immature fruit. Lesions are firm and become dark brown to black when cut open. Occasionally, lesions develop on one side of a fruit, causing it to hook as it grows.
Gummy stem blight is caused by the fungus Didymella bryoniae. The pathogen can be seed-borne or can survive on organic debris from previously infected cucurbits or on wild or volunteer cucurbits. The gummy stem blight fungus produces two types of spores. Windblown ascospores are likely to start the disease in a field. Later, pycnidiospores are released in a gummy substance that makes them adaptable for short distance spread by splashing water. Spore production and infection are influenced by moisture and temperature. A moisture film from dew, rain, or overhead irrigation is necessary for spore germination. Optimum temperature for infection is 61 to 75 degrees F. Low night temperatures, particularly in greenhouses, may cause water droplets to exude from leaf points and condensation to form on leaves, favoring infection by the fungus at those points. Infection of fruits commonly occurs through harvest wounds or through dying flowers.
Figure 2. Black rot symptoms on butternut|
squash fruit showing irregular ring
patterns and water-soaked areas.
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