JACKSONVILLE — A fungus that has affected pumpkins dating back to the Irish Potato Famine of the mid-1800s is reemerging in Illinois for the third time in 30 years — and it's devastating the canned pumpkin industry.
Phytophthora capsici has the potential to decimate pumpkin crops, as well as other fruit and vegetable crops. It was detected earlier this month near Morton, in Tazewell County, less than 100 miles north of Jacksonville.
"Right now, it has moved to the fruits," said Mohammad Babadoost, professor and faculty Extension specialist at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. "I was just in the area and (am) heading back there" Thursday morning.
Recent rains and higher temperatures across west-central Illinois and north toward Morton have created the perfect formula for the fungus to start destroying crop roots and growth.
"It's mainly because of the rainfall in the previous weeks," said Duane Friend of Jacksonville's University of Illinois Extension office.
Standing water fuels the fungus and crops that are low to the ground will help spread it.
"It helps create the spores and then it can spread through the soil," Friends said, adding that it then will spread from the soil through the crops.
The fungus is the same one that hit pumpkin crops in 1990 and the early 2000s, wiping out the crops that provided more than 80% of the canned pumpkin on the market.
"It could have the potential," Friend said. "It can decrease the yields."
The fungus also can affect bell peppers, melons, cucumbers, zucchini and squash.
Fungicide treatments can be applied, which is one of the best ways to battle the fungus, Babadoost said, adding that such treatments will "hopefully contain it."
Illinois produces three times more pumpkins than any other state, with Nestle USA owning around 5,000 pumpkin-dedicated acres in Morton. That crop becomes Libby's canned pumpkin.
"Morton is known as the world capital of pumpkins," Babadoost said.
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Aisha Praught-Leer, Jamaica: 1,500-meter run
Alyssa Naeher, United States, soccer
Andrea Filler, Italy, soccer
Casey Krueger, United States, soccer
Darryl Sullivan, United States: High jump
David Kendziera, United States: 400-meter hurdles
David Robertson, United States, baseball
DeAnna Price, United States: Hammer
Eddy Alvarez, United States, baseball
Edwin Jackson, United States, baseball
Eliza Stone, United States: Saber
Evita Griskenas, United States, rhythmic gymnastics
Felicia Stancil, United States: BMX racing
Gwen Berry, United States: Hammer
Jewell Loyd, United States, women’s basketball team
Jordan Wilimovsky, United States: 10-kilometer
Jordyn Poulter, United States, volleyball
Josh Zeid, Israel, baseball
Julie Ertz, United States, soccer
Kelsey Card, United States: Discus
Kelsey Robinson, United States, volleyball
Kent Farrington, United States: Show jumping
Kevin McDowell, United States
Laura Zeng, United States, rhythmic gymnastics
Lauren Doyle, United States, rugby
Maggie Shea, United States, sailing
Michelle Bartsch-Hackley, United States, volleyball
Mitch Glasser, Israel, baseball
Nefeli Papadakis, United States, judo
North Shore Rhythmic Gymnastics team, United States: Rhythmic gymnastics team competition
Pedrya Seymour, Bahamas: 100-meter hurdles
Rajeev Ram, United States: Men’s doubles
Raven Saunders, United States: Shot put
Ryan Murphy, United States: 100- and 200-meter backstroke
Sandi Morris, United States: Pole vault
Thomas Detry, Belgium, golf
Thomas Jaeschke, United States, volleyball
Thomas Pieters, Belgium, golf
Tierna Davidson, United States, soccer
Tim Federowicz, United States, baseball
Tim Nedow, Canada: Shot put
Tomáš Satoranský, Czech Republic, men’s basketball team
Tori Franklin, United States: Triple jump
Tyson Bull, Australia: Horizontal bar
Zach LaVine, United States, men’s basketball team
Zach Ziemek, United States: Decathlon
Olivia Smoliga, United States: 400-meter freestyle relay
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