Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Downy Mildew: Hops

Hops are a new crop to western North Carolina. As with all new crops, it is going to take some time to figure the ins and outs of hops production. We are learning from our current hops growers about when and how to harvest, yield per bine, how to dry the hops cones, what varieties work well for WNC and how to control mites, leafhoppers and other pests.

In addition, as you all know, WNC is very humid and sometimes wet! As a result, we struggle with the control of plant diseases. Hops are no exception. Upon my last visit to the hops yard, I found some leaves exhibiting symptoms that had me concerned. I had discovered what I initially thought was downy mildew, caused by the fungal-like organism, Pseudoperonospora humuli, on some lower hops leaves.

Downy mildew causes angular lesions, bound by leaf veins.
Note: the large circular lesion is not caused by downy mildew

Underside of leaf infected by P. humuli

Underside of leaf infected by P. humuli

Upon inspection using my hand lens, I was able to confirm that there was downy mildew sporangia emerging on the underside of the leaf surface. Because I love learning about plant diseases, I had to take a closer look using a dissecting microscope (about 20-45x magnification).

The fuzzy growth of P. humuli on the underside of the leaf surface.

Sporangia (spores) and sporangiophores of P. humuli on underside of hops leaf.

Sporangia (spores) and sporangiophores of P. humuli on underside of hops leaf. You can really see the football/lemon shaped spores at this magnification.

After the dissecting microscope, I had to take a closer look at the sporangia and sporangiophores using the light microscope. Check out these beautiful pictures of P. humuli up close and personal (200-600x magnification)!

Football/lemon shaped sporangia and dichotomously branched sporangiophores (note the pointy ends upon which the sporangia are borne).

Another picture of the sporangia and sponrangiophores of P. humuli.

P. humuli sporangia. Note the small raised bump at one end of the sporangia. This is the papilla and is characteristic and diagnostic of this pathogen.

Strategies for the Management of Hops Downy Mildew

To manage downy mildew of hops it will take an integrative approach using some or all of the following strategies.
  • Host Resistance. One of the most effective management strategies for hops downy mildew is to plant resistant varieties. There is no variety that is immune to downy mildew, but 'Fuggle', 'Cascade', 'Newport' and 'US Tettnang' are resistant. 'Centennial', 'Willamette', 'Chinook', 'Liberty', 'Cascade', 'Bullion' and 'Brewer's Gold' are tolerant. 'Late Cluster', 'Galena', 'Horizon' and 'Nugget' are susceptible. Interestingly, many of the varieties that are resistant to downy mildew are susceptible to powdery mildew and vice versa. For a complete listing of varieties inlcuding disease susceptibility, pedigree and chemical characteristic, see the Compendium of Hop Diseases and Pests edited by Walter Mahaffee, Sarah Pethybridge and David Gent. This book is a must have for a hops producer!
  • Disease Free Stock. It is always important to purchase disease free plant stock! Ask your supplier.
  • Pruning. P. humuli overwinters in dormant crowns and buds of hops. During the winter and spring, P. humuli may spread into developing buds and cause the new shoots to be systemically infected. Pruning helps to reduce downy mildew levels in already infected plantings. Pruning hops yards as late as possible in the spring can help to reduce the amount of downy mildew in the yard, however if you do it too late you may reduce yield by dealying training.
  • Manage Moisture. Moisture on the leaves favors disease development, so using practices that reduce leaf moisture will also help to manage the disease. Avoid overhead irrigation.
  • Reduce Inoculum. Stripping diseased leaves after training may help reduce disease in the upper plant canopy.
  • Early Harvest. Early harvest may be beneficial in minimizing cone infection. Downy mildew favors the cool, wet weather that occurs late season in WNC.
  • Timely Fungicide Application. Many hops growers rely on fungicide use for downy mildew control. Because P. humuli produces so many spores (progeny), it is impoprtant to employ tactics to prevent fungicide resistance. To read more about fungicides for the management of downy mildew of hops visit Oregon State Extension's Factsheet. Some organic fungicides include copper products and Sonata (Bacillus pumulis strain QST 2808).
If you suspect you have downy mildew in your hops yard. Let me know, I will do my best to help you confirm it and come up with a strategy for control.

I would like to thank Dr. Kelly Ivors and Landis and Dreama for letting me use their awesome microscopes and camera to take these incredible pictures!!


Van Burnette said...

Very good photos and a most informative ariticle Sue. As a hop grower, this article will not let me sleep without dreams of downy mildew dancing in my head!

Scott Grahl said...

Thanks Sue for this fantastic information. Awsome identifing photos. As Western North Carolina Hops growers, we will now have a leg up on what to look for next season. With the exception of John and Rita, we Hops growers in Western North Carolina are all on our Madien voyage. Everyone has learned and shared so much this year. Sharing knowledge is the key to all our Hops futures and success. I look for '10 to be an advancement year. Until spring, everyone enjoy a "cool" one... and Happy Hoppin'...