Cercospora leaf spot (CLS), caused by Cercospora beticola, is an important and emerging disease in beet
and swiss chard production in New Jersey. Efforts to control this disease has become more difficult in the
past few years in some areas of southern New Jersey. The soilborne fungal pathogen, once established in
fields, can survive in the soil for up to 2 years on infected debris and on weed hosts such as Chenopodium, goosefoot, and pigweed. The pathogen may also be seed-borne. Symptoms of infection include numerous, small tan leaf spots with distinct dark purple margins that are easily diagnosed. Overhead irrigation and rainfall help spread the pathogen throughout the field. Cercospora beticola is most damaging in warm weather (day temperature of 77 to 90° F and night temperature above 60°F).
Controlling Cercospora leaf spot with preventative fungicide applications has become challenging for some growers in New Jersey. The pathogen is known to have developed resistance to important fungicide classes in recent years, such as the QoIs (FRAC code 11) and the DMIs (FRAC code 3) in different regions of the country, based on fungicide use. This is not surprising since resistance development can occur when fungicides in these groups are used extensively over many years. In New Jersey, azoxystrobin has been used extensively for years to manage this disease.
Cultural practices to help mitigate losses to Cercospora leaf spot
There are a number of cultural practices growers can do to help reduce losses to CLS.
- Start with certified, disease-free seed, or treat seed using hot water seed treatment method.
- Avoid fields with a known history of CLS.
- Rotate to non-host crops (outside of the Chenopodium family) for 2-3 years.
- Bury infected crop residues and destroy volunteer plants and weed hosts.
- Burn down fields after harvesting.
- Avoid planting succession crops close together (at least 100 meters apart).
- Avoid overhead irrigation if it will result in prolonged leaf wetness periods (e.g., late evening or at night); irrigate early to mid-day when leaves will dry fully or use drip irrigation for small plantings.
- Using the proper fungicides, rates, and fungicide rotations.
Fungicides for controlling Cercospora leaf spot
In recent years a number of new fungicides have been labeled for CLS control. Many of these fungicides
contain two different active ingredients with more than one mode of action. Growers who have relied on managing CLS with azoxystrobin (FRAC code 11) for years and suspect a loss in efficacy should consider removing it from their fungicide program. There is a good chance fungicide resistance has developed.
Growers with resistance concerns who have relied heavily on copper and azoxystrobin for CLS control should consider using other fungicides in their weekly preventative fungicide programs. Control programs should focus on applying fungicides with more than one mode of action and focus on rotating fungicides with different modes of action. For example: (please see 2022/2023 Commercial Vegetable Production Guide), Apply Tilt (FRAC code 3) followed by Miravis Prime (7 + 12), then tebuconazole (3), then Merivon (7+ 11), then Tilt (FRAC code 3), then Luna Tranquilty (7 + 9). Remember, resistance development to FRAC code 11 fungicides (QoIs) is qualitative and controlled by single point mutations, once resistance develops the fungus is completely resistance (to all fungicides in the group). Resistance development in FRAC code 3 fungicides (DMIs) is quantitative which often characterized as a gradual loss of resistance over time. As a note, FRAC code 3 fungicides should always be applied at the highest rate, using lower rates may increase selection pressure.
Organic Control Options
Controlling CLS in organic production systems starts by following and executing good cultural practices
listed above. Always purchase certified seed. Use the hot water seed treatment method to help
disinfested seed. Avoiding fi elds with a history of the disease. Producing beet on mulch and drip irrigation in small operations should be considered. This will help reduce weed pressure (as well as potential hosts) and reduce the need for over head irrigation. Organic copper applications may not be effective in some operations where disease pressure is extremely high. Unfortunately, control of CLS with organic and biopesticides has been difficult, therefore good cultural practices must be followed accordingly.
For more information please see the 2022-2023 Mid-Atlantic Commercial Vegetable Production