May 24, 2021Preparing for pepper anthracnose is a serious issue in New Jersey
Pepper anthracnose caused by Colletotrichum spp. has become a significant problem on some farms in southern New Jersey.
Unlike in tomato, where symptoms are only present in mature (red) fruit, pepper anthracnose can infect pepper fruit at any growth stage. Currently, there are no commercially-available bell or non-bell peppers with known resistance to anthracnose.The pathogen overwinters, albeit, not very well on infected pepper fruit left in the field or on infected plant material at the end of the production season. Because pepper anthracnose does not overwinter very well, it always starts out as a ‘hot spot’ in the field and then fans out directionally with the prevailing direction of the wind and driving rain. Hot weather along isolated afternoon and evening showers are ideal conditions for anthracnose development.
On farms with a history of pepper anthracnose, precautions should to be taken each year. The first, if possible, is to rotate away from those areas of the farm with anthracnose for as long as possible. Remember, it can survive(although not very well) in the soil for many years. Importantly, the same pathogens that cause tomato anthracnose and strawberry anthracnose are the same species that infect pepper, so rotating away from fields heavily used in tomato and/or strawberry production is extremely important. Fields need to be scouted as soon as fruit start to develop to locate ‘hot spots’. If ‘hot spots’ are found, all fruit from the immediate and surrounding area need to be strip-picked (or entire plants can also be removed). Growers who have adopted this practice have had success in reducing their losses by reducing the inoculum pressure before the pathogen begins to fan out across the field. Overhead irrigation should not be used in fields with anthracnose problems.
Reducing the amount of inoculum in the field is critical for managing pepper anthracnose. Infected fruit left in the field during and after the production season have the potential to act as a source of inoculum. Therefore, it is critically important to take the appropriate steps to help reduce that chance. During the season, all infected fruit need to be removed from the field. After harvesting, all fields should immediately mowed or hit with gramoxone. All plant debris should be thoroughly worked back into the soil so it can start to break down as quickly as possible. Abandoned fields with plants still standing going into the fall/winter only act as an increased source for inoculum. It’s a misnomer to think that the cold winter weather will help breakdown and reduce inoculum found on infected plant material left on the soil surface. It’s much better if infected plant material is worked back into the soil where other soil microorganisms can help with the process.
Fungicide programs do work for controlling pepper anthracnose. Fungicide programs should begin as soon as plants start to flower. The key to controlling anthracnose is to get the fungicide to where it is needed the most, on the developing fruit. Planting peppers in a single or double-row fashion may greatly affect your ability to control the disease. Your fertility program may also affect your ability to control the disease. Fertility programs high in N that promote tall, lush, dense canopies will greatly impact how much fungicide gets to where it needs to be. Growers should apply high rates of chorothalonil or manzate in a weekly rotation; or tank mix either with azoxystrobin (11); Cabrio (pyraclostrobin, 11); Priaxor (fluxapyroxad + pyraclostrobin, 7 +11); Quadris Top (3 + 11); Aprovia Top (3 + 7); or Topguard (flutriafol + azoxystrobin, 3 + 11) with a high volume of water (50 gal/A +) to ensure adequate coverage. Organic growers need to be extremely diligent with proper crop rotations, regular scouting to detect ‘hot spots’ early and make sure to remove all potential sources of inoculum. Weekly OMRI-approved copper applications may help suppress anthracnose. Other organic products have shown little or no efficacy against pepper anthracnose.
For more information, see the 2020/2021 Mid-Atlantic Commercial Vegetable Production Recommendations Guide.
– Andy Wyenandt, Rutgers University