In the last couple of weeks, we've been experiencing a good amount of rainfall that has fulfilled most of our crops' water needs. This is in comparison to last year when we saw drought conditions at this time.
So you might think it's misguided for me to bring up irrigation management at a time when you are not irrigating. But things change fast especially with weather and could easily enter a drought period relying on irrigation. If we get drier and hotter weather, disease could become a serious problem.
Vegetable diseases are caused by plant pathogens such as fungi or bacteria. I've visited with growers in the last couple of weeks and it's clear we're still early in seasonal disease development.
Water then becomes the friend and the enemy. It helps the plant out because soil nutrients like N-P-K can only be taken up through water in the soil. Plants cannot take up soil nutrients any other way. At the same time, water can cause problems. It can splash up soil that has disease causing pathogens. Pathogens can also spread through water from plant to plant if it is on the leaves. If you do need to irrigate, it is best to apply water in the morning at the base of the plant so that the leaves can dry out. Watering in the evening (especially if it gets on the plant tissue) can cause pathogens to move fast as they will be in cooler, wet conditions for a longer period of time.
Along with these water tips here are some additional disease management practices:
- Do not work in wet conditions
- Sanitize any tools used for multiple crops
- Remove weeds that can harbor pathogens
- Monitor the crop families that share similar diseases
While plant pathogen and disease management practices are not perfect, they are steps in the right direction in preventing serious crop damage in your garden and operation.