Survival of Plant Pathogens in The Desert (August 7, 2019)
Survival of plant pathogens in the desert. As the seemingly endless days of summer heat in the desert persist, we can
seek refuge in air-conditioned vehicles or buildings. Also, we can obtain food from any number of sources at any time.
Not so for plant pathogens, which must survive both high temperatures and lack of food by employing other tactics. A
few plant pathogens can thrive at temperatures common in the desert during the summer and cause disease on plants growing
at that time; however, most others cannot function at temperatures much above 90°F. To survive inhospitable temperatures
or lack of a host in which to live, fungal pathogens often produce thick-walled durable spores or other structures that
allow these organisms to survive hostile environments in a dormant state. Examples of such structures are the visible
dark-colored sclerotia produced by the Sclerotinia lettuce pathogens. Much smaller sclerotia and thick-walled spores
facilitate long-term survival of the soil-borne pathogens Rhizoctonia and Fusarium, respectively. Most bacterial plant
pathogens do not have recognized survival structures; however, they can subsist for some time in a reduced metabolic
state on, in, or near living or dead plant tissue. Plant pathogenic viruses also cannot make resistant structures, so they
survive in vectors or living plants, including weeds or cultivated crops that do not express disease symptoms, but serve
as sources of virus to visiting insect vectors. Finally, nematode survival stages can include eggs and certain larval
forms. Many of the cultural disease management methods are effective because they disrupt the normal survival capacity
of plant pathogens.
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For questions or comments on any of the topics please contact Marco Pena at the Yuma Agricultural Center.
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