Temporal dynamics and severity of cucurbit downy mildew epidemics as affected by chemical control and cucurbit host type.
Cucurbit downy mildew caused by the oomycete Pseudoperonospora cubensis is an important disease that affects members of Cucurbitaceae family globally. However, temporal dynamics of the disease have not been characterized at the field scale to understand how control strategies influence disease epidemics. Disease severity was assessed visually on cucumber and summer squash treated with weekly alternation of chlorothalonil with cymoxanil, fluopicolide, or propamocarb during the 2018 spring season and 2019 and 2020 fall seasons in North Carolina and the 2018 and 2020 fall seasons in South Carolina. Disease onset was observed around mid-June during the spring season and early September during the fall season, followed by a rapid increase in severity until mid-July in the spring season and late September or mid-October in the fall season, typical of polycyclic epidemics. The Gompertz, logistic, and monomolecular growth models were fitted to disease severity using linear regression and parameter estimates to compare the effects of fungicide treatment and cucurbit host type on disease progress. The Gompertz and logistic models were more appropriate than the monomolecular model in describing temporal dynamics of cucurbit downy mildew, with the Gompertz model providing the best description for 34 of the 44 epidemics examined. Fungicide treatment and host type significantly (P < 0.0001) affected the standardized area under disease progress curve (sAUDPC), final disease severity (Final DS), and weighted mean absolute rates of disease progress (ρ), with these variables, in most cases, being significantly (P < 0.05) lower in fungicide-treated plots than in untreated control plots. Except in a few cases, sAUDPC, Final DS, and ρ were lower in cases where chlorothalonil was alternated with fluopicolide or propamocarb than in cases where chlorothalonil was alternated with cymoxanil or when chlorothalonil was applied alone. These results characterized the temporal progress of cucurbit downy mildew and provided an improved understanding of the dynamics of the disease at the field level. Parameters of disease progress obtained from this study could serve as inputs in simulation studies to assess the efficacy of fungicide alternation in managing fungicide resistance in this pathosystem.