Dan Egel

Clinical Engagement Associate Professor
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While many growers use high tunnels to extend the growing period for warm-season crops such as tomatoes or cucumbers, it is also possible to grow cool-season crops such as spinach well into winter. The winter over much of Indiana has been rather mild; spinach and other cool-season crops should be doing well. However, disease and insect pests may be a problem. In the first week of March, I observed leaf spot on spinach growing in a high tunnel (Figure 1). Note that the lesions occur on a cluster of plants indicating possible spread of a fungus. A closer look shows that the center of the lesion may be dark with fungal sporulation (Figure 2). I was able to confirm the disease as Cladopsorium leaf spot of spinach. Little is known about the biology of the fungal pathogen. However, the disease is favored by rainy or at least moist weather. The[Read More…]


One concern for every vegetable grower is finding solutions to pest management problems quickly. An example would be anthracnose of watermelon. You recognize the disease or you have had it officially diagnosed. Or perhaps you anticipate this disease every year and want to start applications of a fungicide early in the season. Where do you find recommended products and application details? For years, vegetable growers have reached for the Midwest Vegetable Guide for Commercial Growers (known in Indiana as the ID-56). This annually updated guide includes disease, insect and weed recommendations as well as detailed info about such subjects as food safety, soil fertility and organic production. Starting in 2020, growers may choose to reach for their phones instead of a hard copy. While the hard copy is still available at the same $15 price, the guide is now searchable from data phones, tables, laptops and desktop computers. Read on[Read More…]


The fungus Rhizoctonia can be a nuisance to many vegetable growers. Readers may recognize this unusual name as a cause of many diseases such as damping off and root rot in many different crops. This article is about Rhizoctonia as the cause of wirestem in broccoli. Rhizoctonia may affect several brassica crops such as broccoli, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage and radish. Recently, a disease known as wirestem was observed on broccoli. The first symptoms that growers are likely to observe is a wilt of very young broccoli plants. When the plants are examined more closely, it can be observed that the stem has rotted away, as if to a wire (Figure 1). This can cause the plant to wilt and collapse. The Rhizoctonia fungus may survive in the soil for long periods without a host. And, as mentioned above, the fungus has many hosts. Rhizoctonia diseases are favored by warm soil[Read More…]


This disease was recently observed in southern Indiana. Moderate damage to leaves in broccoli does not usually cause yield or quality loss. However, Alternaria leaf spot may also affect Chinese cabbage, bok choy and leafy brassicas such as cabbage. The most common symptom is a leaf spot (Figure 1). The lesions start out small; as lesions become larger they may have a light brown border with a light gray center. Lesions may also occur on leaf petioles. Under conducive conditions, some defoliation may occur, affecting the size or quality of broccoli heads. In severe cases, broccoli heads may be affected by this disease (See article in this issue about heat damage to broccoli heads). There are two species of the fungus that may cause Alternaria leaf spot. The species that was isolated recently (Alternaria brassicicola) is favored by temperatures from 68 to 86°F and 12 hours of 90% relative humidity.[Read More…]

Many vegetable growers are closing in on the final harvest. Several growers have asked me about fungicide applications late in the season. In this article, I want to address when to stop. To limit the scope of this article, I will concentrate on tomato, cantaloupe and watermelon crops. These are crops where the fruit is consumed, not the foliage. For most vegetable crops, there is no need to apply a fungicide shortly before the final harvest. Foliage needs to be protected to preserve fruit quality. A plant with reduced foliage will produce a smaller fruit and/or fruit that have fewer sugars and other desirable compounds. I don’t know how much foliage needs to be reduced to affect fruit size or quality. However, I do know that for many foliar diseases, symptoms will not be obvious for a week to 10 days. It will take even longer for the foliar disease to significantly reduce foliage. Therefore, for[Read More…]

Winter squash – butternut, acorn, and kabocha – in our downy mildew sentinel plot at Pinney Purdue were showing some wilted and stunted plants by late July (Figure 1). They are easily pulled up, the stem breaking off at ground level, revealing a brown stringy decayed-looking stem base (Figure 2). Sometimes there is a little whitish or maybe pinkish mold on the stem. I cut open a kabocha squash to look for squash vine borer larva and found sap beetles that seemed to be feeding inside the stem, but no vine borer (Figure 3). The sap beetles were clearly taking advantage of an opportunity, but not the cause of the wilt. Perhaps a borer had already come and gone. I used scotch tape to pick up some of the mold and put it on a slide to look at under the microscope. At 100X and 400X I saw among the[Read More…]

downy mildew of watermelon

Downy mildew of watermelon has been observed on watermelon in Knox County in southwestern Indiana. Downy mildew of cucurbits has also been reported in southwestern Michigan on the Indiana border and central Missouri. All cucurbit growers in Indiana should be scouting and managing for downy mildew. The organism that causes downy mildew of cucurbits doesn’t overwinter in Indiana because it requires living plant tissues. That means that the fungus-like organism that causes downy mildew has to be blown in every year. It is common for downy mildew to start the season in the Gulf States and migrate north with the cucurbit crops. Downy mildew apparently overwinters in northern Michigan/southern Ontario in greenhouses where cucumbers are grown year-round. Therefore, downy mildew is often found in Michigan before it is found in Indiana. On pumpkin and cucumber, downy mildew causes angular yellow lesions on leaves (Figure 1). Lesions on cantaloupe and watermelon tend to be diffuse[Read More…]

Plectosporium lesions on pumpkin fruit are less common.

Recently, I have had a few phone calls about Plectosporium blight on pumpkins. This disease can be difficult to describe in words. However, once observed, Plectosporium blight is easy to remember. Therefore, this article will include photos of the disease. Lesions of Plectosporium blight are most often observed on the stems of affected plants. The lesions are small and irregularly shaped. The lesions often coalesce to form a scabby area (Figure 1 and 2). When the handle of the pumpkin is affected, the marketability of the pumpkin is affected. In severe cases, the pumpkin itself may have lesions of Plectosporium blight.     Plectosporium blight lesions on fruit may be confused with bacterial spot. However, bacterial spot lesions are usually larger than Plectosporium blight lesions and do not coalesce over large areas like Plectosporium blight. This disease may be managed through a combination of cultural and fungicide treatments. Crop rotations[Read More…]

Although unusual in Indiana, powdery mildew can cause infections on watermelon fruit as seen here.

While cantaloupe and pumpkin growers are used to combating powdery mildew in Indiana, watermelon growers may not be familiar with the disease. Occasionally, I observe this disease on watermelon as well. If left uncontrolled, this disease can cause loss of foliage, loss of yield and lower quality fruit. This article will discuss the biology and management of powdery mildew of cucurbits with an emphasis on watermelon. While powdery mildew often causes a white talc-like growth on either side of the leaf, on watermelon the symptom may show up as a chlorotic lesion on the upper side of the leaf (Figure 1).  The talc-like growth on the lower side of the leaf may be more idiffuclut to observe than on other hosts. Occasionally, powdery mildew may be observed on watermelon fruit (Figure 2). This article https://vegcropshotline.org/powdery-mildew-symptoms-vs-variegated-leaves/ has additional information about powdery mildew symptoms. The fungus that causes powdery mildew, Podosphaera xanthii,[Read More…]

whiteflies on cucumber leaf.

Here in Indiana, whitefly problems are rare, but when encountered it is most often in protected ag production (greenhouse or high tunnel) and less often in the field. However, this is the time of year that you may be seeing them in either environment. Whiteflies are not true flies, but rather Hemipteran insects, more closely related to aphids and plant hoppers. They are sap sucking insects that feed on the phloem of the plant, making them efficient vectors of plant pathogens. Whiteflies produce honeydew secretions which can attract other insects or host the growth of sooty mold on infested leaves. There are two main species of whiteflies that may be encountered in Indiana: the greenhouse whitefly (Trialeurodes vaporariorum) and the sweetpotato whitefly (Bemisia tabaci; Figure 1). They can be distinguished by the way in which they hold their wings when at rest on the plant: sweetpotato whiteflies hold their wings[Read More…]