By Karla Arboleda
Faculty and staff at University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) focused on disease management at the 2019 Suwannee Valley Watermelon Institute meeting on Dec. 3.
Among the attendees were growers, trade show exhibitors and UF/IFAS employees. The event included a disease management workshop and updates on the watermelon industry.
Nicholas Dufault, an associate professor of plant pathology at UF/IFAS, helped lead a panel discussion on watermelon pathogens.
“We (gave) a brief update on our research and an idea on what’s going on for controlling diseases like downy mildew, gummy stem blight, powdery mildew and fusarium wilt,” Dufault said, adding that panelists talked about different fungicides to help with watermelon issues. “How do we make adjustments, especially when we’re using a higher-priced fungicide? These fungicides may have more efficacy against a certain disease, but they cost a little more.”
Other panel participants included UF/IFAS’ Pam Roberts and Gary Vallad, along with former Extension agent Anthony Drew and Syngenta representative Wilson Faircloth. Most questions growers asked the panel dealt with an effective combination of fumigants to combat watermelon diseases.
“The goal was to see if there are any other unique questions on early-season product use and also talk a little bit about transplants,” Dufault said. “You have to hedge your bets … we want to try and diversify as best as we can, but we also want to stay in a budget.”
SUWANNEE VALLEY RESEARCH
Sylvia Willis, a UF/IFAS Suwannee County Extension agent, talked to attendees about the benefits of using grafted watermelon seedlings. Bob Hochmuth and Kevin Athearn, two UF/IFAS regional specialized agents, talked about controlled-release fertilizer research in watermelon.
Beyond providing growers with the latest research that UF/IFAS faculty are working on, Dufault expressed that the collective work is future-focused. “I think we’re always looking to the future. We want to know what’s coming next and what we can do,” he concluded.
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