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Fighting bacterial wilt with row covers. Erika Saalau and Mark L. Gleason Plant Pathology Department Iowa State University. Transplanted in May-June. Muskmelons. First harvest by August. Early muskmelons = premium prices. Cucumber beetles. Adult beetles overwinter near fields

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Fighting bacterial wilt with row covers

Erika Saalau and Mark L. Gleason

Plant Pathology Department

Iowa State University

Transplanted in May-JuneMuskmelons
  • First harvest by August
  • Early muskmelons = premium prices
cucumber beetles
Cucumber beetles

Adult beetles overwinter near fields

Become active in May

Look for young cucurbits

Feed, reproduce, lay eggs

Next generation emerges in fields

bacterial wilt of cucurbits
Bacterial wilt of cucurbits

Caused by Erwinia tracheiphila

Transmitted by cucumber beetles

Plants wilt and die

Overwintering adults

Cucurbit seedlings


Acquire bacteria

Beetles reproduce


when should i protect my plants
When should I protect my plants?


Highest risk period= early beetles


Managing beetles!!!


Trap crops

Baited traps

Row covers

Why row covers?
  • Protect from frost and extreme weather conditions
  • Increase earliness and yield
  • Prevent insect damage
  • Protect from bacterial wilt!!!
What about pollination?

Timing of removal

Conventional removal= flowering

Could row covers stay on a bit longer?

timing of removal
Timing of removal
  • Open row cover ends for pollinators
  • Add bumblebees
  • Remove row covers 10 days after flowering
isu field trials
ISU field trials:
  • Plants were covered from transplant
  • No insecticides were applied!
At flowering:

No Row Cover

Open ends

Remove covers at flowering

No Row Cover

Add bumblebees

bacterial wilt incidence
Bacterial wilt incidence

Row covers removed @ anthesis

No row covers

Delayed-removal row covers

delayed row cover removal
Delayed row cover removal

Delaying removal by 10 days can provide season-long protection against bacterial wilt.

This strategy can reduce the need for insecticides.

delayed planting
Delayed planting

No row covers

Row covers

late planting
Late planting

All row cover treatments suppressed bacterial wilt


No beetles!


No disease

are they affordable1
Are they affordable?


RC removed at bloom

Delayed RC

Delayed RC

RC removed at bloom


take home points
Take-home points

Sporadic disease in the Midwest

Delayed-removal strategy may provide consistent returns.

take home points1
Take-home points

Cost effectiveness is affected by how often bacterial wilt outbreaks occur.

Delayed-removal strategy was advantageous when wilt occurred ≥ 50% of the growing seasons.

current projects
Current projects

USDA's Organic Research and Extension

Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Iowa