In a year dominated by clouds and rainfall, local peanut fields have been inundated with plant diseases. Peanut farmers utilize fungicides to protect the leaves and the pods developing below ground. However, too much rainfall, while improving growing conditions for fungus, can also reduce the effectiveness of agri-chemicals.
Researchers from the University of Florida were recently in Columbia County to increase knowledge of one economically important disease of peanuts. White mold, or southern stem rot is formally known as Scleortium rolfsii. Patricia Soria is a plant pathology graduate student working in the lab of Dr. Nicholas Dufault. She visited area farms to collect peanut samples of plants infected with white mold. These samples were taken to the Plant Pathology lab at University of Florida and will be studied to identify genetic diversity of the white mold fungus. Ms. Soria said the project goal is “To identify genetic diversity of Sclerotium rolfsii throughout the southeast United States.”
The work of these researchers could help deliver more farm or region specific recommendations. Researchers may find that an isolate of fungus found on one farm is easily controlled by one chemical compared to another. Without more information, we assume all white mold fungus is the same, and this might not be correct. Researchers are interested in learning the differences in genetic variability of the fungus from state to state, as well as within a single field. Farmers sometime question the intensity of white mold on particular farms or in different regions, and maybe they are experiencing different isolates of Sclerotium rolfsii and the related effects on their peanut crops. Their intuitive nature telling them, “something is different” might be correct. This work will begin to identify potential genetic differences.