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Cultural, Chemical, and Alternative Control Strategies for Rhizopus Soft Rot of Sweetpotato

Scruggs, A. C., Quesada-Ocampo, L. M.
Plant disease 2016 v.100 no.8 pp. 1532-1540
Rhizopus stolonifer, chlorine dioxide, dicloran, disease control, disease incidence, fumigation, inoculum, irradiation, markets, mycelium, postharvest diseases, postharvest losses, relative humidity, roots, sporulation, storage temperature, sweet potatoes, ultraviolet radiation
Rhizopus soft rot, caused primarily by Rhizopus stolonifer, is one of the most common postharvest diseases of sweetpotato and is often considered the most devastating. Traditionally, Rhizopus soft rot has been effectively controlled using postharvest dips in dicloran fungicides; however, due to changes in market preferences, use of these fungicides is now limited. This, along with the lack of labeled and effective fungicides for control of Rhizopus soft rot in sweetpotato, creates the need for integrated strategies to control the disease. The effects of storage temperature (13, 23, and 29°C), relative humidity (80, 90, and 100%), and initial inoculum levels (3-, 5-, and 7-mm-diameter mycelial plugs) on progression of Rhizopus soft rot in ‘Covington’ sweetpotato were examined. Percent decay due to Rhizopus soft rot infection was significantly reduced (P < 0.0001) at a low temperature (13°C) but was not significantly affected by changes in relative humidity or initial inoculum level (P >0.05). Sporulation of R. stolonifer was also significantly reduced at the lowest temperature of 13°C. High relative humidity (>95%) significantly increased sporulation of R. stolonifer and sporulation also increased as initial inoculum level increased. Efficacy of chlorine dioxide (ClO₂) fumigation, UV-C irradiation, and postharvest dips in alternative control products were also investigated for control of Rhizopus soft rot. Static ClO₂ treatments were effective in reducing sporulation on treated roots but had no significant impact on incidence of Rhizopus soft rot. UV irradiation at 3.24 KJ/m² 1 h after inoculation as well as dips in aqueous ClO₂ and StorOx 2.0 significantly (P < 0.05) reduced disease incidence. Understanding the epidemiological factors favoring Rhizopus soft rot and identifying alternative control strategies allow for improved recommendations to limit postharvest losses in sweetpotato.