Downy mildew was spotted in a garden in Wooster, Wayne County, Ohio and confirmed by Dr. Francesca Rotondo, interim director of the OSU Plant and Pest Diagnostic Clinic. This is the first report in Ohio this summer but it has likely been here for a few weeks. The pathogen, Peronospora belbahrii, is related to but different from the cucurbit downy mildew (CDM) pathogen, Pseudoperonospora cubensis. These pathogens don’t cross-infect hosts: P. belbahrii does not infect cucurbits and P. cubensis does not infect basil. However, their biology is similar; they are both obligate parasites that require living plant tissues to survive. They disappear from the outdoor environment in northern areas during the winter and are introduced the following spring or summer from infected plant material or via spores carried on wind currents and rain. Cucurbits or basil grown over the winter in greenhouses can be a source of inoculum. Last year we found basil plants with severe downy mildew symptoms in a big box store in Wooster. We tend to begin
seeing basil downy mildew in Ohio in July or August. Rainy, cloudy weather favors spore (sporangia) transport and infection; the sporangia are sensitive to UV light and tend to be killed by sunshine.
Management of basil downy mildew, like CDM, is entirely preventative. There are resistant varieties and a number of fungicides and biologicals are available for conventional and organic production systems. Fungicides and biologicals are only effective if applied before infection. Home gardeners should keep an eye on their basil plants and harvest non-diseased leaves as soon as downy mildew is observed. More specifics can be found in last year’s July 17 post.