April 16, 2021

Red stele root rot is hard to control due to heavy clay soils

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — One particular disease that plagues Hoosier strawberry producers is red stele root rot.

Janna Beckerman, a botany and plant pathology professor at Purdue University, said red stele is a big problem in Indiana due to the heavy clay that allows water to just sit in the soil.

Beckerman said the pathogens from the red stele disease germinate in wet conditions. The pathogens and the water in the soil cause mold, which leads to the root rot, Beckerman said.

The pathogen spores swim through the water in the soil until they find roots they can penetrate and take nutrients from.

“It’s a problem in Indiana because of heavy clay soils,” Beckerman said.

The pathogen gets in the plants once it’s infected with spores, and this can be a huge problem since it is spread easily.

Beckerman said the root disease is spread through water movement, which can include wind-splashed rainwater or water draining throughout the soil.

The worst root rot from this disease can happen in early spring and then the spores will germinate during the summer, Beckerman said.

Once germinated, the spores can splash on fruit which causes leather rot.

Red stele is a triple threat because it infects the roots, the foliage and the fruit, Beckerman said.

The best way to beat, or at least slow down, the pathogen is through the use of fungicide.

Ashley Langreck

Field Editor