For North Carolina cucumber growers, late was definitely better than early in 2010.

“Our spring cucumbers were heavily impacted by the heat when we had so many 100-degree days,” says grower Charles Harden of Windsor, N.C. “But the fall crop was a pretty good one.”

The early crop was hit very hard by the weather, says Allan Thornton,North Carolina Extension associate stationed in Clinton. “That was partly because it was dry, but the heat did as much harm as the drought.”

Considering the weather, it was probably a little better crop than you would expect, says Thornton. “But it wasn’t what you would call a good one. The second half was a lot better than the first.”

The late crop got adequate rain. In fact, it got too much rain at one point late in the season, but it still produced a decent yield, he says.

“There were many ‘crooks’ and ‘nubs’ in this crop, even where farmers irrigated,” he says.

Nearly all North Carolina vegetables suffered stress over the summer.

“A lot of cabbage suffered blistering, and in many cases peppers — which are all irrigated — did so too. The foliage just wasn’t able to stand up to the heat.”

The disease that is the bane of growers of cucumbers— cucurbit downy mildew— made very little appearance in the dry spring conditions.

But when it finally started raining later, the disease started showing up, proving once again that you always have to be prepared for this disease.

Harden says the chemicals available now will do a satisfactory job of control as long as you use them as a preventative.

“You have to switch them up and use them on a schedule,” he says.           

Presidio and Ranman fungicides have had a major effect on downy mildew control on Harden’s farm, he says, along with Previcur Flex and Tanos.

You can stay ahead of cucurbit downy mildew by using a forecasting system that assists in the timing of fungicide applications for maximum benefit. It can be found at this website: www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/pp/cucurbit.

And it is not just an aid in cucumber production. In Tennessee, where there are relatively few commercial plantings of cucumbers, cucurbit downy mildew is more of a problem on pumpkins and squash, says Steve Bost, Tennessee Extension plant pathologist.

But for any of these cucurbits, the key to control of downy mildew is recognition of symptoms.

“On pumpkins and squash, the first symptom may be tiny yellow lesions on the leaves that quickly turn necrotic,” says Bost.

“On cucumbers, cantaloupes and watermelon, the leaf lesions tend to be bigger, perhaps the size of a nickel.”