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Polyethylene Mulch Modifies Greenhouse Microclimate and Reduces Infection of Phytophthora infestans in Tomato and Pseudoperonospora cubensis in Cucumber

January 2010 , Volume 100 , Number  1
Pages  97 - 104

D. Shtienberg, Y. Elad, M. Bornstein, G. Ziv, A. Grava, and S. Cohen

First, second, and third authors: Department of Plant Pathology and Weed Research, Institute of Plant Protection, ARO, the Volcani Center, P.O. Box 6 Bet Dagan, Israel; fourth, fifth, and sixth authors: Department of Environmental Physics and Irrigation, Institute of Soil, Water and Environmental Science, ARO, the Volcani Center, P.O. Box 6, Bet Dagan 50250, Israel.

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Accepted for publication 20 August 2009.

The individual and joint effects of covering the soil with polyethylene mulch before planting and fungicides commonly used by organic growers on tomato late blight (caused by Phytophthora infestans) were studied in three experiments conducted from 2002 to 2005. Application of fungicides resulted in inconsistent and insufficient late blight suppression (control efficacy ± standard error of 34.5 ± 14.3%) but the polyethylene mulch resulted in consistent, effective, and highly significant suppression (control efficacy of 83.6 ± 5.5%) of the disease. The combined effect of the two measures was additive. In a second set of three experiments carried out between 2004 and 2006, it was found that the type of polyethylene mulch used (bicolor aluminized, clear, or black) did not affect the efficacy of late blight suppression (control efficacy of 60.1 to 95.8%) and the differences in the effects among the different polyethylene mulches used were insignificant. Next, the ability of the mulch to suppress cucumber downy mildew (caused by Pseudoperonospora cubensis) was studied in four experiments carried out between 2006 and 2008. The mulch effectively suppressed cucumber downy mildew but the effect was less substantial (control efficacy of 34.9 ± 4.8%) than that achieved for tomato late blight. The disease-suppressing effect of mulch appeared to come from a reduction in leaf wetness duration, because mulching led to reductions in both the frequency of nights when dew formed and the number of dew hours per night when it formed. Mulching also reduced relative humidity in the canopy, which may have reduced sporulation.

The American Phytopathological Society, 2010