Subsurface drip and furrow irrigation were compared on lettuce (Lactuca sativa) cvs. Salinas and Misty Day for yield and incidence and severity of three important diseases of lettuce in the Salinas Valley, CA. Experiments were conducted between 1993 and 1995 during the spring and fall seasons. The diseases examined included lettuce drop (Sclerotinia minor), downy mildew (Bremia lactucae), and corky root (Rhizomonas suberifaciens). Replicated plots of subsurface drip and furrow irrigation were arranged in a randomized complete-block design. All plants were inoculated with S. minor at the initiation of the experiment during the 1993 spring season. Plots were not inoculated for downy mildew and corky root during any season nor were the plots reinoculated with S. minor. During each season, all plots were sprinkler irrigated until thinning, and subsequently, the irrigation treatments were begun. The furrow plots were irrigated once per week, and the drip plots received water twice per week. The distribution of soil moisture at two soil depths (0 to 5 and 6 to 15 cm) at 5, 10, and 15 cm distance on either side of the bed center in two diagonal directions was significantly lower in drip-irrigated compared with furrow-irrigated plots. Plots were evaluated for lettuce drop incidence and downy mildew incidence and severity at weekly intervals until harvest. Corky root severity and yield components were determined at maturity. Lettuce drop incidence and corky root severity were significantly lower and yields were higher in plots under subsurface drip irrigation compared with furrow irrigation, regardless of the cultivar, except during the 1994 fall season. Incidence and severity of downy mildew were not significantly different between the two irrigation methods throughout the study. The differential microclimates created by the two irrigation treatments did not affect downy mildew infection, presumably because the mesoclimate is usually favorable in the Salinas Valley. Subsurface drip irrigation is a viable, long-term strategy for soilborne disease management in lettuce in the Salinas Valley.
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