A new crop disease outbreak, which could potentially be devastating, has been confirmed in Ireland and the UK.
The disease, Lettuce Fusarium wilt, was first confirmed in Ireland in 2017 and was first found in 1955 in Japan. The first European detection was found in Italy and Portugal in 2002. The latest cases, according to farminguk.com, have been found in lettuce crops grown in greenhouses.
What causes it and what to look out for-
It is caused by Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. lactucae and can attack all types of lettuce, with butter head and baby gem more susceptible.
The fungus causing the soil-borne disease can survive in soil for a number of years, due to its ability to survive on dead plant material and long-lasting spores it dorms called Chlamydospores. The fungus attacks the plant through the roots, with the bottom leaves soon turning yellow. As the disease progresses, the leaves begin to die and the whole plant will wilt.
The wilting is caused by water conducting tissues becoming blocked by the fungus, resulting in restricted water uptake.
There are currently no fungicidal treatments on the market to tackle the disease and the best practice to help prevent an outbreak is good hygiene.
Regular inspection of crops allows for earlier detection and once an infected crop is found, it should be removed immediately. It is advised, by Teagasc, to then cease from growing lettuce in the affected greenhouse, whilst also avoiding moving any of the contaminated soil.
Soil sterilisation will help reduce the likelihood of the disease in the soil, though it will not completely eradicate it. Footwear and all equipment used should also be sterilised, to ensure you are best protected.
Picture - EPPO Global Database