URBANA, Ill. – Despite a scare in mid-August, the 2017 Illinois pumpkin crop is looking good. In fact, one expert says, “Don’t hesitate to carve more than one this year. There are plenty of pumpkins for everyone.”
Mohammad Babadoost, plant pathologist and pumpkin expert in the Department of Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois, was not as confident earlier this summer when he found a downy mildew outbreak on pumpkins in Kankakee County. Spores from the fungal pathogen are known to spread very quickly, and he feared it could seriously reduce yields in the area.
So Babadoost came up with a plan of attack – a mix of fungicides that worked well for both downy mildew and phytophthora in local trials – and acted quickly to get the word out.
“All my recommendations are based on local research. Problem-solving in plant pathology must be based on local research, not borrowed information from elsewhere,” Babadoost says.
It worked. About a week after he made his recommendation, Babadoost went back to collect samples of the pathogen, but by that time, the pathogen was gone. “It had a very good effect on downy mildew, and kept it from spreading,” he says.
With the downy mildew taken care of and dry weather in late August and September, the pumpkin crop enjoyed near-perfect conditions through harvest, leading to minimal yield losses throughout the state. “It’s a better than average year for pumpkins,” Babadoost says.