Scouting for diseases: Downy mildew

Editor’s note: This article is from the archives of the MSU Crop Advisory Team Alerts. Check the label of any pesticide referenced to ensure your use is included.   

Peronospora spp. and Plasmopara spp. (view images)

Many fungi cause downy mildew. Each has a fairly limited host range. Common hosts include: Buddleia, Delphinium, Dianthus, Dicentra, Geum, Helianthus, Iberis, Lamium, Lathyrus, Oenothera, Papaver, Potentilla, Primula, Rudbeckia, Veronica and Viola.

Fuzzy, gray to black mold develops on the undersides of infected leaves. Chlorotic or necrotic lesions appear on the upper surfaces of infected leaves. Lesions may have angular edges; some lesions are bordered by veins. Infected foliage may be cupped, and new growth may become distorted. Severely affected plants are stunted. Some seedlings can be infected systemically, causing new growth to be stunted and severely distorted.

Spores are readily released and carried by air currents. Peak spore release often occurs when relative humidity rapidly decreases, which typically occurs in the morning. Some downy mildews are spread by contaminated seed; others are effectively spread on vegetative cuttings and seedlings.

Scout susceptible incoming plant material carefully for signs of downy mildew paying careful attention to leaf undersides. Remove and destroy infected plants. Do not compost the plant debris. Warm days and cool nights with high humidity are favorable conditions for downy mildew spore production. Maintain good air circulation and increase night temperatures in greenhouses. Fungicides should be used preventively on especially susceptible crops. Downy mildews are capable of developing resistance to several effective systemic fungicides. Rotate use of systemic fungicides with protectants to slow resistance development.

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