Istituto di Entomologia e Patologia Vegetale, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Via Parmense 84, 29122 Piacenza, Italy.
Although primary infection of grapevines by Plasmopara viticola requires splash dispersal of inoculum from soil to leaves, little is known about the role of rain in primary inoculum dispersal. Distribution of rain splashes from soil to grapevine canopy was evaluated over 20 rain periods (0.2 to 64.2 mm of rain) with splash samplers placed within the canopy. Samplers at 40, 80, and 140 cm above the soil caught 4.4, 0.03, and 0.003 drops/cm2 of sampler area, respectively. Drops caught at 40 and 80 cm (1.5 cm in diameter) were larger than drops at 140 cm (1.3 cm). Leaf coverage by splashed drops, total drop number, and drop size increased with an increase in the maximum intensity of rain (mm/h) during any rain period. Any rainfall led to infection in potted grapevines placed outside on leaf litter containing oospores, if the litter contained germinated oospores at the time of rain; infection severity was unrelated to rain amount or intensity. Results from vineyards also indicate that any rain can carry P. viticola inoculum from soil to leaves and should be considered a splash event in disease prediction systems. Sampling for early disease detection should focus on the lower canopy, where the probability of splash impact is greatest.