According to Pamela Roberts, a plant pathology professor at the SWFREC, the main vegetable and specialty crops grown in the area include bell peppers, cucumbers, squash, tomatoes and watermelon. As such, the majority of her research is on these particular crops.
Roberts points out that a lot of the research is currently aimed to help conventional growers, meaning the main focus is on improving fungicide performance and other materials, such as biologicals. While the focus is on conventional growers, she says there is some potential for organic growers.
Due to the large whitefly population this past spring, research is looking at protecting crops from whiteflies and the diseases they vector. This past spring was specifically strenuous for watermelon growers due to whiteflies and viruses, Roberts says.
In collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Bill Turechek, Roberts is also working on improved disease management through developing a decision support system that helps growers time fungicide applications in cucurbits. Two of the main diseases in these crops, downy mildew and powdery mildew, can have a negative effect on yield for growers, making it important to find improved management options against these diseases.
To combat target spot in tomatoes, Roberts is working alongside UF epidemiologists and plant pathologists. She and her team take the models from the epidemiologists and put them into field testing to validate them. Roberts says collaboration in this research is highly important to help combat disease and provide the best possible tools for growers.
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