Powdery mildew

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Blumeria graminis
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Fungi
Phylum: Ascomycota
Class: Leotiomycetes
Order: Erysiphales
Family: Erysiphaceae
Genus: Blumeria
Species: B. graminis
Binomial name
Blumeria graminis
(DC.) Speer

Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that affects a wide range of plants. Powdery mildew diseases are caused by many different species of fungi in the order Erysiphales. It is one of the easier diseases to spot, as its symptoms are quite distinctive. Infected plants display white powdery spots on the leaves and stems. The lower leaves are the most affected, but the mildew can appear on any above-ground part of the plant. As the disease progresses, the spots get larger and denser as large numbers of asexual spores are formed, and the mildew may spread up and down the length of the plant. Powdery mildew grows well in environments with high humidity and moderate temperatures.[1] In an agricultural setting, the pathogen can be controlled using chemical methods, genetic resistance, and careful farming methods. It is important to be aware of powdery mildew and its management as the resulting disease can significantly reduce crop yields.[2]

Example of powdery mildew (right) along with Downy mildew on a grape leaf
Powdery mildew growing on a leaf (magnified).
Powdery mildew growing on a leaf in high magnification.


Powdery mildew fungi reproduce both sexually and asexually. Sexual reproduction is via chasmothecia (formerly cleistothecium), a type of ascocarp. Within each ascocarp are several asci. Over time, ascospores mature and are released to initiate new infections. Conditions necessary for spore maturation differ among species.

Vectors of Transmission:

Wooly aphids (Eriosomatinae) and other sucking insects are often vectors of transmission for Powdery mildew, and other infectious diseases. Typically wooly aphids in sub temperate climates precede and are an indicator of various infections, including Powdery mildew. Aphids penetrate plant surfaces where they often reside and provide a host of potential inoculants through physical, digestive or fecal secretions. Aphids are often an indicator of other potential plant problems.

Powdery mildews of various plants[edit]



Blumeria graminis f. sp. tritici, causes powdery mildew of wheat. Powdery mildew of wheat is relatively easy to diagnose[2] due to the characteristic little white spots of cotton like mycelia.[3] These can appear on the upper and lower epidermis of the leaves. As the disease progresses they become a light tan color.[3] Blumeria graminis f. sp. tritici is an obligate parasite which means it only grows on living tissue. Though present throughout wheat growing regions, it especially favors the eastern seaboard of the United States as well as coastal regions of the United Kingdom.

Hosts and symptoms[edit]

Triticum sp. (wheat) is the only host of Blumeria graminis f. sp. tritici.[2] Signs on the foliage of wheat are white, powdery mycelium and conidia.[4] As the disease progresses, the patches turn gray and small dark black or brown cleistothecia form in the mycelium mass.[5] Symptoms progress from lower to upper leaves. Symptoms of powdery mildew are chlorotic areas surrounding the infected areas.[4] The lower leaf surface corresponding to the mycelial mat will also show chlorosis.[5] Lower leaves are commonly the most infected because of higher humidity around them.[2]

Disease cycle[edit]

Blumeria graminis f. sp. tritici has a polycyclic life cycle typical of its phylum, Ascomycota. Powdery mildew of wheat overwinters as cleistothecia dormant in plant debris. Under warmer conditions, however, the fungus can overwinter as asexual conidia or mycelium on living host plants. It can persist between seasons most likely as ascospores in wheat debris left in the field. Ascospores are sexual spores produced from the cleistothecia. These spores, as well as conidia, serve as the primary inoculum and are dispersed by wind. Neither spore requires free water to germinate, only high relative humidity.[5] Wheat powdery mildew thrives in cool humid conditions and cloudy weather increases chances of disease. When conidia land on a wheat leaf’s hydrophobic surface cuticle, they release proteins which facilitate active transport of lightweight anions between leaf and fungus even before germination. This process helps Blumeria recognize that it is on the correct host and directs growth of the germ tube.[6] Both ascospores and conidia germinate directly with a germ tube. Conidia can recognize the host plant and within one minute of initial contact, the direction of germ tube growth is determined. The development of appressoria then begins infection following the growth of a germ tube.[7] After initial infection, the fungus produces haustoria inside of the wheat cells and mycelium grows on the plant’s outer surface.[5] Powdery mildew of wheat produces conidia during the growing season as often as every 7 to 10 days.[8] These conidia function as secondary inoculum as growth and reproduction repeat throughout the growing season.


Powdery mildew of wheat thrives in cool, humid climates and proliferates in cloudy weather conditions.[1] The pathogen can also be an issue in drier climates if wheat fields are irrigated.[9] Ideal temperatures for growth and reproduction of the pathogen are between 60 °F (16 °C) and 70 °F (21 °C) with growth ceasing above 77 °F (25 °C). Dense, genetically similar plantings provide opportune conditions for growth of powdery mildew.[5]


Controlling the disease involves eliminating conducive conditions as much as possible by altering planting density and carefully timing applications and rates of nitrogen. Since nitrogen fertilizers encourage dense leafy growth, nitrogen should be applied at precise rates, less than 70 pounds per acre, to control decrease severity. Crop rotation with non-host plants is another way to keep mildew infection to a minimum, however the aerial nature of conidia and ascospore dispersal makes it of limited use. Wheat powdery mildew can also be controlled by eliminating the presence of volunteer wheat in agricultural fields as well as tilling under crop residues.[8]

Chemical control is possible with fungicides such as triadimefon and propiconazole. Another chemical treatment involves treating wheat with a silicon solution or calcium silicate slag. Silicon helps the plant cells defend against fungal attack by degrading haustoria and by producing callose and papilla. With silicon treatment, epidermal cells are less susceptible to powdery mildew of wheat.[10]

Milk has long been popular with home gardeners and small-scale organic growers as a treatment for powdery mildew. Milk is diluted with water (typically 1:10) and sprayed on susceptible plants at the first sign of infection, or as a preventative measure, with repeated weekly application often controlling or eliminating the disease. Studies have shown milk's effectiveness as comparable to some conventional fungicides,[11] and better than benomyl and fenarimol at higher concentrations.[12] Milk has proven effective in treating powdery mildew of summer squash,[12] pumpkins,[11] grapes,[13] and roses.[13] The exact mechanism of action is unknown, but one known effect is that ferroglobulin, a protein in whey, produces oxygen radicals when exposed to sunlight, and contact with these radicals is damaging to the fungus.[13]

Another way to control wheat powdery mildew is breeding in genetic resistance, using "R genes" (resistance genes) to prevent infection. There are at least 25 loci on the wheat genome that encode resistance to powdery mildew. If the particular variety of wheat has only one loci for resistance, the pathogen may be controlled only for a couple years. If, however, the variety of wheat has multiple loci for resistance, the crop may be protected for around 15 years. Because finding these loci can be difficult and time consuming, molecular markers are used to facilitate combining resistant genomes.[1] One organization working towards identifying these molecular markers is the Coordinated Agricultural Project for Wheat. With these markers established, researchers will then be able to determine the most effective combination of resistance genes.[14]


It is the most repetitive fungal genome sequenced to the moment with 90% transposable elements [15](March 2013). 6540 genes have been annotated, a number similar to that in yeasts, but lower than for the rest of fungal genomes. The analysis of these genes has revealed a similar pattern to that found in other obligate biotrophs of lower presence of genes implied in primary and secondary metabolism.

Evolution of Blumeria gramimis f.sp. tritici[edit]

Wheat powdery mildew is an obligate biotroph with a poorly understood evolutionary history. Sequencing its genome in 2013, many aspects of the evolution of its parasitism were unveiled[15].Obligate biotrophy has appeared multiple times in evolution in both Ascomycetes like B.graminis and Basidiomycetes, thus different selective pressure must have acted in the different organisms through time. It has been seen that B.graminis f.sp. tritici's genome is a mosaic of haplogruops with different divergence times, which explains its unique pathogen adaptability. Haplogroup Hold (diverged 40-80 mya)allows for the infection of wild tetraploid wheat and Hyoung (diverged 2-10 mya) allows for the infection of both domesticated hexaploid wheat. It is hypothesized that this mosaicisms has been maintained through clonal propagation in populations with small effective size or through quasi-clonal propagation in populations with large effective size. Additionally, it has been seen that there is a positive selective pressure acting on genes that code for candidate secretor proteins and non-secreted candidate secretor proteins, indicating that these might participate in the gene-for-gene relationship of plant disease resistance.


Powdery mildew can be found in all wheat growing areas of the United States but usually will be most severe in the east and southeast.[5] It is more common in areas with a humid or semi-arid environment where wheat is grown.[5] Powdery mildew has become a more important disease in some areas because of increased application of nitrogen fertilizer, which favors the development of the fungus.[4] Severe symptoms of powdery mildew can cause stunting of wheat.[4] If unmanaged, this disease can reduce yields significantly by reducing photosynthetic areas and causes non-seed producing tillers.[2] Powdery mildew causes reduced kernel size and lower yields.[8] The sooner powdery mildew begins to develop and how high on the plant it develops by flowering the larger the yield loss.[8] Yield Losses up to 45 percent have been shown in Ohio on susceptible varieties when plants are infected early and weather favors disease.[8]


Powdery mildew of grape

Erysiphe necator (or Uncinula necator) causes powdery mildew of grapes. It produces common odors such as 1-octen-3-one and (Z)-1,5-octadien-3-one.[16]


The fungus causing powdery mildew of onions is Leveillula taurica (also known by its anamorph name, Oidiopsis taurica). It also infects the artichoke.

Apples and pears[edit]

Podosphaera leucotricha is a fungus that can cause powdery mildew of apples and pears.

Gourds and melons[edit]

Powdery mildew of cucurbits

Podosphaera fusca is a fungus that can cause powdery mildew of Curcurbits: cucumbers, squashes (including pumpkins), luffas, melons and watermelons.


Microsphaera syringae is a fungus that can cause powdery mildew in lilac.[17]


Podosphaera aphanis is the cause of powdery mildew in strawberries and other Rosaceae like Geum rivale (the Water Avens)

Tree leaves[edit]

Sawadaea tulasnei is a fungus that causes powdery mildew on tree leaves. This fungus attacks the leaves of the Acer platanoides (Norway Maple) in North America, and in Great Britain and/or Ireland, Acer palmatum (also known as the Japanese Maple or Smooth Japanese Maple).[18]

Oregon Grape[edit]

Erysiphe berberidis is a fungus that causes powdery mildew on Oregon Grape leaves. [19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Huang, X.Q. et al. (2000). Molecular mapping of the wheat powdery mildew resistance gene Pm24 and marker validation for molecular breeding. Theoretical and Applied Genetics, 101. Retrieved from http://www.springerlink.com/content/engc84epbg6feqvk/fulltext.pdf.
  2. ^ a b c d e Maloy, Otis and Debra Inglis (1993) Powdery Mildew, Washington University extension, Diseases of Washington Crops. Retrieved from http://pnw-ag.wsu.edu/smallgrains/Powdery%20Mildew.html
  3. ^ a b Stromburg. (2010). Wheat Powdery mildew. Retrieved from http://www.ppws.vt.edu/stromberg/w_powder_mildew.html.
  4. ^ a b c d Wegulo, Stephen (2010). Powdery Mildew of Wheat. Retrieved from http://www.ianrpubs.unl.edu/pages/publicationD.jsp?publicationId=1262
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Partridge, Dr. J. E. (2008). “Powdery Mildew of Wheat,” University of Nebraska- Lincoln Department of Plant Pathology. Retrieved from http://nu-distance.unl.edu/homer/disease/agron/wheat/WhPowMil.html.
  6. ^ Nielson, Kristen A. et al. (February 2000) First touch: An immediate response to surface recognition in conidia of Blumeria graminis. Physiological and Molecular Plant Pathology, 56. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0885576599902412.
  7. ^ Wright, Alison J. et al. (12 March 2002) The rapid and accurate determination of germ tube emergence site by "Blumeria graminis" conidia. Physiological and Molecular Plant Pathology, 57. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0885576500903047.
  8. ^ a b c d e Lipps, Patrick E. (n.d). “Powdery Mildew of Wheat,” The Ohio State University Extension. Retrieved from http://ohioline.osu.edu/ac-fact/0010.htmltm.
  9. ^ Bennet, Fiona G. A. (1854). Resistance to powdery mildew in wheat: a review of its use in agriculture and breeding programmes. Plant Pathology, 33. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-3059.1984.tb01324.x/abstract.
  10. ^ Belanger, R. r. et al. (April 2003). Cytological Evidence of an Active Role of Silicon in Wheat Resistance to Powdery Mildew (Blumeria graminis f. sp. tritici). Phytopathology, 93. Retrieved from http://www.siliforce.com/pdf/7c/Belanger-%20%20evedence%20silicon%20powdery%20mildew%20on%20wheat.pdf.
  11. ^ a b DeBacco, Matthew. "Compost Tea and Milk to Suppress Powdery Mildew (Podosphaera xanthii) on Pumpkins and Evaluation of Horticultural Pots Made from Recyclable Fibers Under Field Conditions". University of Connecticut. Retrieved 5 May 2013. 
  12. ^ a b Bettiol, Wagner (September 1999). "Effectiveness of cow's milk against zucchini squash powdery mildew (Sphaerotheca fuliginea) in greenhouse conditions". Crop Protection 18 (8): 489–492. 
  13. ^ a b c Raloff, Janet. "A Dairy Solution to Mildew Woes". Science News Magazine. Retrieved 5 May 2013. 
  14. ^ Griffey, Carl et al. "Wheat Cap Facts: Powdery Mildew", University of California- Davis, May 2007. Retrieved on 2011-11-12 from http://maswheat.ucdavis.edu/education/PDF/facts/powderymildew.pdf.
  15. ^ a b Wicker, T., Oberhaensli, S., Parlange, F., Buchmann, J. P., Shatalina, M., Roffler, S., … Keller, B. (2013). The wheat powdery mildew genome shows the unique evolution of an obligate biotroph. Nature genetics, 45(9), 1092–6. doi:10.1038/ng.2704]
  16. ^ Darriet P, Pons M, Henry R, et al. (May 2002). "Impact odorants contributing to the fungus type aroma from grape berries contaminated by powdery mildew (Uncinula necator); incidence of enzymatic activities of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae". J. Agric. Food Chem. 50 (11): 3277–82. doi:10.1021/jf011527d. PMID 12009998. 
  17. ^ http://www.hfrr.ksu.edu/DesktopModules/ViewDocument.aspx?DocumentID=1662
  18. ^ Sawadaea tulasnei (Fuckel) Homma 1937 - Encyclopedia of Life
  19. ^ Pacific Northwest Plant Disease Management Handbook

External links[edit]