The cucurbit downy mildew pathogen Pseudoperonospora cubensis

Elizabeth A Savory, Leah L Granke, Lina M Quesada-Ocampo, Marina Varbanova, Mary K Hausbeck, Brad Day
Molecular Plant Pathology 2011, 12 (3): 217-26

UNLABELLED: Pseudoperonospora cubensis[(Berkeley & M. A. Curtis) Rostovzev], the causal agent of cucurbit downy mildew, is responsible for devastating losses worldwide of cucumber, cantaloupe, pumpkin, watermelon and squash. Although downy mildew has been a major issue in Europe since the mid-1980s, in the USA, downy mildew on cucumber has been successfully controlled for many years through host resistance. However, since the 2004 growing season, host resistance has been effective no longer and, as a result, the control of downy mildew on cucurbits now requires an intensive fungicide programme. Chemical control is not always feasible because of the high costs associated with fungicides and their application. Moreover, the presence of pathogen populations resistant to commonly used fungicides limits the long-term viability of chemical control. This review summarizes the current knowledge of taxonomy, disease development, virulence, pathogenicity and control of Ps. cubensis. In addition, topics for future research that aim to develop both short- and long-term control measures of cucurbit downy mildew are discussed.

TAXONOMY: Kingdom Straminipila; Phylum Oomycota; Class Oomycetes; Order Peronosporales; Family Peronosporaceae; Genus Pseudoperonospora; Species Pseudoperonospora cubensis.

DISEASE SYMPTOMS: Angular chlorotic lesions bound by leaf veins on the foliage of cucumber. Symptoms vary on different cucurbit species and varieties, specifically in terms of lesion development, shape and size. Infection of cucurbits by Ps. cubensis impacts fruit yield and overall plant health.

INFECTION PROCESS: Sporulation on the underside of leaves results in the production of sporangia that are dispersed by wind. On arrival on a susceptible host, sporangia germinate in free water on the leaf surface, producing biflagellate zoospores that swim to and encyst on stomata, where they form germ tubes. An appressorium is produced and forms a penetration hypha, which enters the leaf tissue through the stomata. Hyphae grow through the mesophyll and establish haustoria, specialized structures for the transfer of nutrients and signals between host and pathogen.

CONTROL: Management of downy mildew in Europe requires the use of tolerant cucurbit cultivars in conjunction with fungicide applications. In the USA, an aggressive fungicide programme, with sprays every 5-7 days for cucumber and every 7-10 days for other cucurbits, has been necessary to control outbreaks and to prevent crop loss.

USEFUL WEBSITES: (Day Laboratory website with research advances in downy mildew); (Hausbeck Laboratory website with downy mildew news for growers); (Cucurbit downy mildew forecasting homepage); (Downy mildew information for Michigan's vegetable growers).

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