Friday, April 18, 2014

Apple Tree Diseases: Powdery Mildew Disease Cycle

This post is in continution to my previous post on Diseases of Apple: Powdery Mildew. In this post we are going to discuss about how disease causing propagules overwinters (survive) and cause primary and secondary infections. 

Disease cycle:  

The powdery mildew fungus overwinters as mycelium in infected buds or as cleistothecia on the surface of infected twigs. Infected terminal buds are more susceptible to winter injury than healthy buds, typically bud break in the spring is 5-8 days later than healthy buds, and are more susceptible to spring frost than healthy buds. In fact, healthy buds may survive at temperatures 2-10oC colder than infected buds. As a result, many infected buds will not survive through a cold winter. This is important to keep in mind because a hard winter can dramatically reduce both disease pressure and the need for control measures during the subsequent season. The survival rate of infected buds is less than 5 per cent when temperatures drop below –24oC and, although not well studied, it appears that temperatures around –12oC will kill the mycelium in infected buds and allow the bud to produce healthy leaves. The cleistothecia, which form the sexual stage of the fungus and produce ascospores, apparently do not play an important role.

Mycelia in infected buds produce conidia to initiate primary infections and these infections can be found as early as the tight cluster stage. There is often an abundance of susceptible tissue for the conidia to infect because infected buds break later than healthy buds. Conidia are disseminated by wind and can infect young leaf tissue, blossoms, and fruit. Leaves become increasingly resistant to infection as they age and become nearly immune once they have matured, although infection can occur through injuries on older leaves. Symptoms may develop as early as 5 days after infection. Numerous secondary cycles can occur under favorable conditions and, like many powdery mildews, cooler temperatures rather than relative humidity drive early secondary infections. Like other powdery mildews, P. leucotricha exhibits a diurnal periodicity in that the highest concentration of airborne conidia is found from midday to early afternoon. Infections that result in fruit russet occur primarily during the pink stage of bud development.

Apparently, infection of lateral and fruit buds occurs within 1 month after they are formed. The infections remain latent until bud break the following spring where they will serve as the initial source of inoculum. The lateral buds are susceptible to infection longer than the terminal buds, however, it is the terminal buds that are the likely source of overwintering of the fungus as infection can be greater than 50 percent by terminal bud set.

In coming post we are going to discuss about the management of the disease

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