USDA 2018 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program Recipients

CucCAP researchers are among grant recipients from the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program in 2018

Biosurveillance of cucurbit downy mildew: North Carolina State University will develop a bio-surveillance program for precision disease management of Cucurbit Downy Mildew through early detection of Pseudoperonospora cubensis airborne sporangia, establishing crop risk and fungicide resistance, and disseminating results to stakeholders through grower meetings and field days.


Improving NC Pumpkin Production and Marketing: Pumpkin is not well recognized as a cash crop in North Carolina (NC). Despite this, NC ranked fourth in U.S. pumpkin production in 2016, producing over 936,000 cwt on over 4,000 acres. Current value is $5,000-$9,000 per acre gross, although value could be increased 50% if high yielding cultivars are found, production practices optimized, and stem quality improved during curing. The industry has a strong interest in forming a NC Pumpkin Growers Association to better market their crop and support improved production. The NCSU horticultural science department and NC Extension will lead this project to improve commercial pumpkin production and storage life and create a NC pumpkin commodity association with the NCDA&CS.


Optimizing Production of Processing Squash with Increased Quality and Disease Resistance: The Michigan Vegetable Council along with MSU researchers Drs. Hausbeck and Hayden will optimize hard squash production for the fresh market and processing industries. Guidelines to maximize yield and quality will be developed and communicated to growers. Cooperation among processors, growers, researchers, and extension educators will ensure sustainability and profitability. Activities include: (1) Replicated and controlled laboratory and field tests for fruit quality and rot resistance among cultivars, (2) Comparing strategies for foliar blight and impact on fruit quality, and (3) Grower demonstration plots and outreach meetings.


Identifying Genetic Sources of Virus and Vector Resistance in Cucumis Melo for New Cultivar Development: Cucurbit Yellow Stunting Disorder Virus (CYSDV) is a threat to melon production in California. Insecticides are not effective in controlling whitefly vectors or limiting CYSDV spread. Repeated crop failures have led to the elimination of the fall melon season in desert areas. Melon cultivars with resistance to CYSDV and whiteflies are necessary for restoration of fall melon profitability. The goals of this project are to: 1) develop rapid, laboratory-based virus and vector resistance phenotyping methods to accelerate breeding efforts; 2) use phenotyping methods to identify the genetic and molecular mechanisms of CYSDV and whitefly resistance in four melon accessions; and 3) produce resistant germplasm for crosses with elite melon cultivars. As a result of this project, the melon industry will be presented with information about newly developed germplasm and virus management using host-plant resistance.

Cucurbit disease control projects in other states received grants

South Carolina Cantaloupe Disease Survey: Clemson University will improve disease control for cantaloupe growers by carrying out a disease survey in the main South Carolina counties that produce cantaloupe, writing a Cantaloupe Fungicide Guide to target the main diseases, and educating stakeholders at grower meetings.
Developing Gummy Stem Blight Resistant Watermelon Cultivars Using Metabolimics: The Texas A&M University Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center (VFIC) will lead a multidisciplinary team composed of the Texas Watermelon Association, HEB, University of Georgia, Texas Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic Lab and several watermelon producers (Bagley Production Co., Pennington Farms, Prukop Farms and Mandujuan Brothers) to screen Gummy Stem Blight (GSB)-resistant greenhouse and field grown cultivars of watermelon using biochemical and metabolomic approaches the goal is confirming GSB-resistant watermelon cultivars suitable for Texas growing conditions and to minimize the watermelon yield losses in the region.