While we suspected that downy mildew might be present in southern or central Ohio based on weather conditions, storm trajectories and outbreaks in other states, we had not confirmed it until this weekend in pumpkins and today from zucchinis. The Pike County pumpkins were in a cultivar evaluation trial at the OSU-OARDC South Centers near Piketon. The zucchinis came from two organic farms in Guernsey County. The organic growers indicated that they had observed downy mildew symptoms about 2 weeks ago.
None of the fields had been treated with fungicides effective against downy mildew. As you can see in the zucchini leaf photos in this post, downy mildew can be very severe on squash; similar symptoms can occur on pumpkins. Fungicides should be applied before symptoms are observed – recommended fungicides can be found here.
Organic growers have limited options for downy mildew management. OMRI-approved copper-based fungicides are somewhat effective if applied preventatively. In the chart below, you can see that control varies by year – in this case good in 2014 and poor in 2013. In both years, downy mildew was significantly less severe in cucumbers treated with Champ WG, oxidate or neem oil than in non-treated control cucumber plants. Since these are all protectant fungicides, it is critical that they be applied before plants are infected with the downy mildew pathogen. In a separate study conducted at the University of Maryland (Everts & Newark, Plant Disease Management Reports 8:V210), Champ WG alternated with Serenade Soil or Actinovate was as effective as Champ WG alone in reducing downy mildew severity in both cucumber and muskmelon.