Pepper plants in large experimental plots in Beltsville, MD developed widespread powdery mildew during the late summer of 2008. Infection was observed in a diversity of accessions that included Capsicum annuum, C. baccatum, C. chinense, and C. frutescens (2). The C. annuum accessions included culinary bell pepper cultivars and breeding lines as well as a diverse collection of ornamental breeding lines, heirlooms, and land races. Significant leaf damage occurred and led to partial defoliation. Extensive coverage of the abaxial surface by white patches of conidia was noted, along with chlorotic regions on the adaxial surface. Conidia were borne singly and were apically tapered, measuring 65.2 ± 3.2 × 14.9 ± 1.9 μm. Cleistothecia were not found on infected leaves (3). PCR amplification of the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region using ITS1-2 primers yielded a band that was cloned and sequenced (4). The pathogen was identified as Leveillula taurica based on 100% homology to GenBank Accession No. AY912077. Multiple chili pepper and bell pepper plants were inoculated with conidia from an infected bell pepper plant by placement in an enclosed spore deposition chamber for 1 week, with the infected plant suspended over the test plants. Signs of powdery mildew appeared only on inoculated plants. DNA samples from these inoculated plants were analyzed and verified as L. taurica (a sequence was deposited as GenBank No. GQ167201). A second set of inoculations using the newly infected plants confirmed results of the first test, with mildew developing only on inoculated pepper plants. This disease is new to the mid-Atlantic Region of the United States. It has been reported in greenhouse peppers growing in Ontario, Canada where it has become a recurring problem requiring fungicide intervention (1). Given the wide host range of L. taurica and the systemic nature of infections, it is likely that the fungus has become established in Maryland on perennial host plants.
References: (1) R. Cerkauskas. Plant Dis. 83:781, 1999. (2) V. de Souza. Plant Pathol. 52:613, 2003. (3) C. Little. Plant Dis. 90:1358, 2006. (4) G. Saenz. Can. J. Bot. 77:150, 1999.