Verticillium wilt is a nationwide scourge, and with the impending phase-out of its nemesis, methyl bromide fumigation, Pacific Northwest growers need new weapons and techniques to fight this crop-busting fungus.

(For more, see: Search for methyl bromide replacement marches on)

One new technique comes in the form of a centuries-old Asian practice: vegetable grafting. A team lead by Carol Miles at the WSU Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center in Mount Vernon is helping watermelon, eggplant and tomato growers fight the wilts with this time-tested technique modernized for today's growers.

While some plants, such as bottle gourd, are not economically significant in their own right, growers admire their resistance to verticillium wilt. Miles found that this desirable resistance could be transferred to watermelon plants by grafting watermelon scion (a twig containing the buds that later become fruits or vegetables) onto bottle gourd rootstock.

"Vegetable grafting," said Miles, "is a simple, biological method for achieving disease resistance."

Miles and her colleagues have created a Web page with publications, animated presentations and additional resources to guide growers in the use of this method.