Some cantaloupe diseases can cause widespread damage to the cantaloupe crop. However, these diseases can be contained through a combination of precautionary and control measures. Most cantaloupe diseases develop late in the growing season and during high-humidity periods. Use the following information to identify and treat some common cantaloupe diseases.
Fusarium Wilting Disease
Fusarium wilt is a damaging fungal infection that is common to the cantaloupe crop. It is caused by the fusarium fungus, usually found in waterlogged soil beds. This fungus can remain dormant for many seasons before attacking the young crop.
Symptoms—Cantaloupes growing in perennially wet conditions are more prone to the fusarium disease. The fungus enters the plant through the developing root tips. The leaves develop a droopy appearance. The stems appear thinner than usual and may start twining excessively. The basal stem may start branching abnormally, developing multiple stems without substantial foliage.
Treatment—Maintaining a well-drained soil bed is critical to prevent fusarium infection. You can mulch the cantaloupe plants during the growth season to ensure better drainage. Commonly-available fungicides cannot eradicate the causative fungus from the soil bed. Thus, repeated tilling and irrigation of the soil bed before transplanting the cantaloupe plants is useful.
Blight disease is caused by a soil-borne fungus. It is also called common blight or stem rot since it usually affects the stems of cantaloupes. Another type of blight disease, called the Gummy Blight Disease, has surfaced in the last decade. This is a more serious form of blighting disease caused by the didymella fungus.
Common blight— The stem develops a wilted appearance. Small, brownish depositions called sclerotia can be seen on the underside of the seasonal bloom. Often the leaves are covered in a whitish, moldy covering.
Gummy blight— It is called the gummy disease because the infected parts of the stem starts exuding a typically, thick, gummy substance. The gummy substance leaks from the lesions on the stems. Large, grayish spots can be seen along the leaf margins.
Treatment—The infected stems, showing sclerotia or gummy depositions, should be pruned-off. Avoid pruning during the humid season. Wet-weather pruning could further spread the blight to foliage surrounding the pruned sites. During the first few weeks of transplanting cantaloupes, use a plastic sheet to cover the lower stem region. You should avoid planting cantaloupe crop in proximity to garden beds growing snap beans, okra and cotton. This is because the blight fungus is commonly found in the seeds these plants.
Root Knot Disease
It is caused by a soil-inhabiting nematode of the Meloidogyne family. It is often called the cantaloupe root wilt.
Symptoms—The younger roots are the worst affected. Infected roots hamper proper plant nutrition. The basal stem region and upper roots may appear shrunken and blackened. The entire plant develops a stunted, lopsided appearance. This is the only fungal disease endemic to cantaloupes grown in sandy soils and extremely dry conditions.
Treatment—Systematic crop rotation is the best method to ensure that the soil-dwelling nematodes aren't able to infect the plants. Rotating the crop ensures that infection doesn't become prevalent in one part of the garden. You can also grow small rows of oats around the cantaloupe garden bed to contain the nematode infestation.