“It’s the difference between harvesting pumpkins, squashes or cucumbers or losing everything,” Seebold said.

He added that the disease is perfect for a forecast model, because it does not always appear in Kentucky and sometimes arrives too late to be a problem. Therefore, growers don’t always need fungicides. Kentucky winters are too cold for the pathogen to over-winter here, as it needs a live host to survive, but states farther south produce cucurbits year-round, allowing the disease to over-winter and a threat of disease to exist every year.

As part of the network, Seebold establishes plots of cucurbits to monitor for the presence of the disease across the state.

“Usually, I start scouting for downy mildew around the third week of July, and it usually appears toward the end of August,” Seebold said.

“This year, according to the forecasting system, Kentucky started being at risk for downy mildew around July 4, and it was found in the state by the middle of July, which is the earliest it’s ever been since I’ve been at UK.”

Since the system was in place, Seebold was able to alert Kentucky growers and county Extension agents to the risk so they could protect their crops.

“Through this system we are able to get farmers information in real time and get them to start spraying their crops before it became a problem. To me, that’s priceless,” he said.

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