Tomatillo or husk tomato (Physalis ixocarpa Brot.) is an annual Solanaceous bush grown for its fruit, which are harvested when the fruit fill the enlarged calyx and are used primarily in Hispanic cooking. In the summer of 1997, commercial field-grown tomatillo in the Salinas Valley (Monterey County) was severely affected by a powdery mildew disease. Fungal growth was found on leaves, petioles, and calyces and resulted in twisting, desiccation, and premature senescence of the tissues. The mycelium was white to gray, ectophytic, amphigenous, and effuse. Mycelial appressoria were indistinct. Conidiophore foot cells were straight, cylindric, measured 36.1 to 61.1 µm (mean 47.0) × 11.1 to 13.9 µm (mean 11.7), and were followed by 1 to 3 shorter cells. Doliform conidia were formed in chains and measured 25.0 to 50.0 µm (mean 32.5) × 11.1 to 22.2 µm (mean 17.7). The length-to-width ratios of conidia generally were less than 2.0, and fibrosin bodies were present. Germ tubes usually were laterally inserted, lacked conspicuous appressoria, and were of the pannosa-type. Cleistothecia were not observed. Based on these characters, the fungus was identified as Sphaerotheca fusca (Fr.) Blumer, Beitr. Krypt.-Fl. Schweiz (1). Pathogenicity was confirmed by gently pressing infected leaves onto leaves of potted tomatillo. Inoculated plants were kept in a chamber at 100% humidity for 48 h, and then maintained in a greenhouse. Powdery mildew developed on inoculated plants after 12 to 14 days, while uninoculated plants did not develop disease. The experiment was conducted a second time and the results were the same. This is the first report of a powdery mildew disease of tomatillo in California.
Reference: (1) U. Braun. Nova Hedwigia 89:1, 1987.