Mariah Bock | 6/10/2014 7:07:15 PM
Mirlitons, also known as vegetable pears or chayote squash, are a member of the cucurbit family. These tasty plants have been grown in Louisiana for years. They are closely related to other commonly grown summer vegetables such as squash, cucumber, and zucchini and are prone to many of the same insect pests and diseases.
Two common diseases of mirlitons grown in Louisiana are anthracnose and powdery mildew. Humid weather and frequent rains encourage the development and spread of anthracnose. Signs of the disease include yellowing leaves, numerous circular necrotic lesions and holes or cracks in the necrotic leaf tissue. Vines infected with anthracnose may lose most of their leaves. In contrast, powdery mildew infected plants will exhibit irregular yellow spots on both the front and back side of leaves. As entire leaves turn yellow they will eventually become necrotic, however these leaves will remain attached to the vine. Using a hand lens a white, thread-like growth, called mycelium, can be seen on the underside of the leaves.
Encourage healthy plant growth by selecting a sunny planting site with good soil drainage and providing your vines with ample trellis space to promote air circulation. Mirlitons are vigorous growers that benefit from fertilizer prior to and throughout the growing season. Fertilize at two-month intervals or as plants need it. Avoid using too much nitrogen, as this may cause excessive vegetative growth and possibly no fruit set.
As summer temperatures rise, keep in mind that mirlitons have a shallow root system and soil moisture can often be a limiting factor. Add mulch around the base of plants and irrigate during dry periods. Pine straw and dried leaves make excellent mulching materials and are often readily available. If your plants are wilting excessively during the day consider adding a shade cloth. These can be utilized during the hottest parts of the summer and removed once temperatures begin to cool again.
To request a copy of the LSU AgCenter Growing Vegetable Pears publication or for more information contact the St. John Parish LSU AgCenter Extension Office at 985-497-3261 or visit www.lsuagcenter.com.
Mariah J. Simoneaux is the LSU AgCenter County Agent for St. John Parish, she can be reached at 985-497-3261.