Friday, May 25, 2012

Win the Battle Against Powdery Mildew

Powdery mildew is one of the most easily recognizable diseases of landscape and garden plants.  While most fungal pathogens are favored by wet weather, powdery mildew pathogens favor high humidity but not wet conditions.  Shady areas, areas with poor air circulation, and low areas that trap damp air are ideal environments for disease development.
Powdery fungal growth is an easily recognizable symptom of powdery mildew disease.

A wide range of plants are susceptible to powdery mildew:  annuals, perennials, shrubs, ornamental and fruit trees, small fruit, and vegetables.  While symptoms appear similar on most plants, powdery mildew fungi are usually host-specific.  For example, powdery mildew of dogwood cannot infect pumpkins or cucurbits, and powdery mildew of cantaloupe will not infect phlox or rose. 
Typical symptoms of powdery mildew include dusty fungal growth on surfaces of leaves and on young succulent plant tissue (Photo 1 & 2).  Powdery mildew may occur as isolated blotches or cover entire leaves, stems, buds, or flowers.  Early infections can lead to leaf stunting, curling, or other deformation (Photo 2).  Infected fruit may become disfigured or fall prematurely (Photo 3).  In the fall, small fruiting structures that resemble pepper flakes may be visible to the naked eye (Photo 4 & 5).  These structures contain overwintering spores that serve as inoculum for the following year.
Infection of young growth may result in stunted or deformed tissue.
Management of powdery mildew begins with prevention.  Plants should be properly spaced and thinned for improved air circulation and more rapid leaf drying.  Resistant cultivars are available for crabapple, dogwood, phlox, zinnia, cucurbits, and several other plants and are an excellent means of disease prevention.
Fruit infections ultimately lead to yield loss.
Fungicides usually are not warranted when cultural practices are implemented.  Early season infection, however, may require one or more applications of effective fungicides.  Homeowners have a wide range of fungicides available.  However, they should carefully read labels to confirm that the selected fungicide may be used legally on select plants or that the fungicide is suitable for edible plants.

Fungicides effective against powdery mildew include:
·         Chlorothalonil – broad spectrum protectant; ornamentals, some fruit and many vegetables

o   Bonide Fungonil concentrate or Fungonil RTU

o   Ortho MAX Garden Disease Control

o   Sevin Daconil

·         Myclobuanil – systemic; ornamentals, most fruit and vegetables

o   Spectracide Immunox (only Immunox Multi-purpose Fungicide Concentrate is labeled for use on fruit and vegetables)

·         Propiconazole – systemic; ornamentals, some fruit

o   Bonide Fungonil RTS (different from other Fungonil products, which contain chlorothalonil)

o   Bonide Infuse

o   Fertilome Liquid Systemic

·         Tebuconazole – systemic; ornamentals only

o   Bayer Advanced Disease Control

o   Bonide Rx Systemic

·         Triflorine – systemic; ornamentals only

o   Ortho Rose Pride Disease Control

Late in the growing season, powdery mildew fungi produce small, black overwintering structures that can serve as inoculum the following year.

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