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Lettuce Sclerotinia collar rot (129) Print Fact Sheet

Common Name

Cottony soft rot, Sclerotinia soft rot, collar rot, white mould, lettuce drop.

Scientific Name

Sclerotinia sclerotiorum


Worldwide. Asia, Africa, North, South and Central America, the Caribbean (restricted), Europe, Oceania. It is recorded from American Samoa (tomato), Australia (bean, watercress, lettuce, potato), Cook Islands (capsicum), Fiji (bean, carrot, lettuce), Samoa (bean), and Tonga (bean).


Wide range of vegetables (beans, cabbage, capsicum, celery, lettuce, peanut, potato, tomato), fruit and field crops (sunflower). More than 75 plant families are hosts.

Symptoms & Life Cycle

The fungus infects roots, causing rots and basal stem cankers, as well as aboveground parts causing rots to leaves, stems and fruit. It is also a cause of seedling damping-off.

Sclerotinia produces large amounts of cottony growth over rots on stems, leaves and flowers. Large, black, irregular bodies, up to 20 mm long and 7 mm wide, are formed on or in the rots; these are called 'sclerotia' (Photo 1). Sclerotia allow the fungus to survive for many years in the soil. Eventually, the sclerotia germinate in cool, moist (foggy) weather producing small (3-8 mmm diameter), cup-shaped, cream, mushroom-like bodies. These contain spores, which are forced out and carried by wind to dying leaves and flowers where they germinate, grow and infect healthy parts of the plant.

Temperatures just below 20°C are best for infection; that is why the disease is not common in the tropics, except in cool wet places.


Sclerotinia is a fungus that is more common in temperate and sub-tropical countries rather than those in the tropics. It attacks beans, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, lettuce (Photos 2&3), lucerne, pea, peanut, potato, rapeseed, soybean (Photo 1), sunflower, tomato and more. Crop losses in the field range from negligible to 100%. Losses also occur in transit and storage. Apart from losses in yield, the disease also affects quality.

Detection & Inspection

Look for the thick, white, cottony growth over leaves, stems, flowers and fruit; this could be mistaken for Pythium cottony leak (see Fact Sheet no. 128 ), so look for the characteristic black irregular-shaped sclerotia on or in the rots. Split stems open, e.g., tomato, to find the sclerotia inside.



Before planting:

During growth:

After harvest:

Scarlet runner bean is reported to be resistant.


For seed treatments:
Seed treatments with thiram, captan, thiophanate-methyl, iprodione and procymidone have all been used to reduce Sclerotinia wilt.

For field treatments:
It is very unlikely that soil fumigants or foliar fungicides would be used against Sclerotinia in Pacific island countries, not only because the disease is relatively rare, but also because of high costs and difficulty of obtaining pesticide products. Foliar fungicides used elsewhere include some in the bendimidazole, strobilurin, triazole and dicarboximide pesticide groups.

AUTHOR Grahame Jackson
Information (and Photo 1) from Diseases of vegetable crops in Australia (2010). Editors, Denis Persley, Tony Cooke, Susan House. CSIRO Publishing. Photos 2&3 Kohler F, Pellegrin F, Jackson G, McKenzie E (1997) Diseases of cultivated crops in Pacific Island countries. South Pacific Commission. Pirie Printers Pty Limited, Canberra, Australia.

Produced with support from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research under project PC/2010/090: Strengthening integrated crop management research in the Pacific Islands in support of sustainable intensification of high-value crop production, implemented by the University of Queensland and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.

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