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Lettuce Wilting Disease Research Presented At Yuma Agriculture Summit

Michael Matheron
(Photo by Maya Springhawk Robnett - KAWC)
Michael Matheron, plant pathologist with University of Arizona.

Southwestern agriculture experts are focused on a plant disease that threatens American lettuce fields. Researchers presented methods to combat the disease at a recent conference in Yuma.

Fusarium wilt is a fungus that lives in soil and affects a lettuce plant’s ability to absorb water.

For more than 15 years, Michael Matheron, a plant pathologist at the University of Arizona Yuma Extension, has looked for ways to mitigate the disease and its costly impact.

At the Southwest Agriculture Summit in Yuma, he presented a few strategies, including laying a plastic cover over a field during the summer to raise the soil temperature and kill the disease.

MORE: Wilting Disease Threatens Arizona's Lettuce Crop

"Basically, every day when the sun comes up and shines, it will heat that soil under the plastic. We could exceed temperatures of 150 or 155 degrees Fahrenheit," said Matheron.

Matheron said while this process, called soil solarization, reduces the organism’s population in a field, it is nearly impossible to eradicate the fungus. Proper sanitation techniques are the key to preventing its spread.

Maya Springhawk Robnett was a reporter for KAWC in Yuma from 2012 to 2014.