UF/IFAS researchers are testing MELCAST, a spray advisory system aimed at watermelon foliar diseases.

Florida watermelon growers looking for help in managing watermelon foliar diseases may soon have the MELCAST system to rely on for giving recommendations on when to start a fungicide spray program. According to a Specialty Crop Industry article, UF/IFAS associate professor of plant pathology, Mathews Paret, shared information concerning the testing of the spray advisory system at the recent Florida Ag Expo. See the details below.

MELCAST and Watermelon Foliar Diseases

According to the article, “MELCAST advises producers to begin their fungicide spray program when the vines touch within a row. Growers can continue their spray plans based upon the environmental factors in that field, such as temperature, relative humidity and leaf wetness.”

Paret maintained that two or three more years of study is necessary to pin down the benefits of the system. Potential benefits include “a more judicious use of fungicides being utilized,” a “potential reduction of applications…” that could “…avoid any fungicide resistance buildup,” and saving “producers money in the process.”

Paret said ““That’s what we are trying to do, to help farmers and help in their production systems either by reduced fungicide applications or improving their economic structure. The MELCAST system is based upon existing data that’s out there. We could use existing weather station data as one possibility. We also need to add a leaf wetness sensor in the field that you’re planning to do your work.”

He added they are using “environmental data; temperature, relative humidity, and leaf wetness data” to calculate a metric that can then advise when to start a fungicide spray program for watermelon foliar diseases.

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