Triploid watermelon cultivars are grown on more than 2,023 ha in Maryland and in Delaware. Triploid watermelon cultivars have little host resistance to Fusarium wilt of watermelon (Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. niveum). The effects of four different fall-planted cover crops (Vicia villosa, Trifolium incarnatum, Secale cereale, and Brassica juncea) that were tilled in the spring as green manures, and bare ground, were evaluated alone and in combination with the biocontrol product Actinovate (Streptomyces lydicus) on Fusarium wilt severity and watermelon fruit yield and quality. Six field experiments were conducted over 3 years in Beltsville and Salisbury, MD and Georgetown, DE. Both V. villosa and T. incarnatum significantly suppressed Fusarium wilt of watermelon as much as 21% compared with watermelon in nonamended plots. However, no suppression of Fusarium wilt occurred at low disease levels or where low cover crop biomass was present. In general, Beltsville, MD had lower disease levels than Salisbury, MD and Georgetown, DE. T. incarnatum was the only cover crop that yielded significantly more fruit than nonamended treatments (129% more fruit per hectare) but only for one field trial. The Actinovate product either did not reduce Fusarium wilt or the magnitude of the reduction was nominal. Actinovate significantly reduced Fusarium wilt by 2% in 2009 and as much as 7% in 2010, and increased Fusarium wilt severity by 2.5% in 2011. Actinovate significantly increased yield for one field trial but only when applied to nonamended or Secale cereal-amended plots. This is the first report of a reduction in Fusarium wilt following a T. incarnatum cover crop incorporated as a green manure.
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