By Clint Thompson
Persistent rains in Northeast Alabama have sparked concerns about potential disease pressure among the region’s specialty crop producers, especially those pumpkin farmers.
Eric Schavey, regional Extension agent in Northeast Alabama, discussed the impact that potential diseases could have on his area’s pumpkin crop.
“That’s one thing we do start to worry about when we start getting rain is we still have the heat. It’s 87, 88 degrees (Fahrenheit) today, humid and partly cloudy and had all of that rain (recently) … the longer that leaf wetness stays there with the humidity, you end up with a chance for foliar diseases, even some of the spots and rots and everything that gets on the fruit itself,” Schavey said.
“We love to see the rain, but pumpkins need some sunshine.”
Agritourism is an important industry in Alabama, specifically in the fall with pumpkins. Schavey said there is not a lot of large acres in his area but multiple farms with 2 to 3 acres.
What’s especially concerning for these farmers is the inability to get in the fields and apply fungicides.
“Depending on how much rain they have, that limits your ability to get in the field. Right now, the ones that have done it right with drive rows are going to be in better shape than ones that didn’t. You would think with as much information as we have put out there about the importance of drive rows, just from an insecticide and fungicide aspect that people would put drive rows in. But some people just won’t do it,” Schavey said.
Pumpkin producers should be wary of downy mildew disease which can destroy plant foliage and cause the leaves to curl and die.