Management of plant diseases is a subject of concern for researchers as well as growers. Different management practices are being developed and used to combat the rising number of plant pathogens, which threaten nursery crop production. Use of cover crops for sustainable management of soilborne diseases is being explored as an alternative strategy to the chemicals. However, the potential threat of these cover crops acting as a secondary host of these devastating soilborne pathogens has not been described. We studied the response of the major cover crops being used by woody ornamental growers in the Southeastern United States to Phytopythium vexans, Phytophthora nicotianae, and Rhizoctonia solani in greenhouse conditions to identify the effective cover crops that can be used in a nursery field production system. Data related to post-emergence damping-off and plant growth parameters (plant height increase and fresh weight) were recorded. Similarly, cover crop roots were assessed for root rot disease severity using a scale of 0–100% roots affected. Among the tested cover crops, the grass cover crops triticale (×Triticosecale Wittm. ex A. Camus.), annual ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum L.), Japanese millet (Echinochloa esculenta (A. Braun) H. Scholz), and the legumes Austrian winter pea (Pisum sativum var. arvense (L.) Poir) and cowpea ‘Iron and Clay’ (Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp.), showed lower root rot disease severity and post-emergence damping-off in the soil inoculated with P. nicotianae, R. solani, or P. vexans compared to the other crops. Since these cover crops can act as non-host crops and benefit the main crop in one way or another, they can be used in the production system. Further research is recommended to evaluate their performance in a natural field setting.
Panth, M.; Witcher, A.; Baysal-Gurel, F. Response of Cover Crops to Phytopythium vexans, Phytophthora nicotianae, and Rhizoctonia solani, Major Soilborne Pathogens of Woody Ornamentals. Agriculture 2021, 11, 742. https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture11080742