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Downy mildew of brassicas is a foliage disease causing whitish, fuzzy patches on the undersides of leaves and yellow discolouration on the top. It affects seedlings and mature plants.
Brassica downy mildew. Credit: RHS, Horticultural Science
Downy mildew of brassicas is a disease of seedlings and also mature plants. It is caused by a fungus-like (Oomycete) organism, Hyaloperonospora brassicae (synonym Peronospora parasitica subsp. brassicae), that penetrates the tissues under wet conditions and grows out to produce fuzzy whitish patches. These infections in turn release spores and spread to other brassicas by wind and rain. Expect damage in spring in young plants (especially in greenhouses and other propagation environments) and in summer and early autumn in maturing crops outdoors.
Hyaloperonospora brassicae affects vegetables including cabbages, cauliflowers, Brussels sprouts, radishes, swedes and turnips. Some ornamental and wild relatives, including horseradish, Cheiranthus (wallflowers), Matthiola (stocks), Aubrieta (aubretia) and Capsella bursa-pastoris (shepherd’s purse) are also affected by downy mildew, although in some cases this has now been shown to be due to different Hyaloperonospora species.
Brassica downy mildew often occurs together with brassica white blister (Albugo candida), another foliar pathogen.
You may see the following symptoms:
No fungicides are available to amateur gardeners for treating downy mildews.
Downy mildews are a large group of plant diseases caused by microscopic fungus-like organisms related to the pathogen that causes tomato and potato blight. Despite a similar name and certain similarities in symptoms, they are unrelated to the powdery mildews.
The downy mildew pathogen produces resting spores in plant debris which carry it through winter. These can infect via the roots, sometimes causing a systemic infection (one that spreads throughout the plant). However, since brassicas and their wild relatives are in leaf all year round, the pathogen is always present on green tissue and these infections provide a more important source of infectious spores whenever suitably wet conditions occur. Spores are released from the fuzzy fungal growth on the lower leaf surface and are spread by wind and water splash. Infections in mature leaves are vein-limited, giving rise to an angular-shaped lesion.
Infections are favoured by warm, wet conditions. These also favour infection by Brassica white blister (Albugo candida), another foliar pathogen of brassicas and the two often therefore occur together.
The downy mildews are described as biotrophic, meaning that they can only live and grow in association with living plant tissues, during which time they disperse infective spores. When the weakened plant tissues die the pathogen also dies, or forms a dormant resting spore.
Brassica white blister
Cabbage root fly
Disposing of diseased material
Flea beetles on brassicas and allied plants
Mealy cabbage aphid
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