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Publication #PP-191

Powdery Mildew on Tomato1

Gary Vallad, Pamela Roberts, Timur Momol, and Ken Pernezny2

Powdery mildew occurs on greenhouse-grown tomatoes and occasionally on tomatoes grown in vegetable gardens or in commercial fields in Florida. The fungus, Oidium neolycopersici, causes the disease. Powdery mildew of tomato occurs in California, Nevada, Utah, North Carolina, Ohio, and Connecticut in the United States. It is also found throughout the world on greenhouse and field-grown tomatoes. Losses in fruit production due to decreased plant vigor can reach up to 50% in commercial production regions where powdery mildew is severe. Although this level of damage has not been observed on tomatoes in fields in Florida, plants grown in greenhouses in North Florida reached 50-60% disease incidence.

Symptoms of the disease occur only on the leaves. Symptoms initially appear as light green to yellow blotches or spots that range from 1/8 - ½ inches in diameter on the upper surface of the leaf (Figure 1 and Figure 2).

Figure 1. 

Leaflets of tomato exhibiting symptoms of powdery mildew.


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Figure 2. 

Symptoms of powdery mildew on tomato leaflets from a greenhouse in Florida.


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The spots eventually turn brown as the leaf tissue dies. The entire leaf eventually turns brown and shrivels, but remains attached to the stem. A white, powdery growth of the fungal mycelium is found on the top of leaves (Figure 3).

Figure 3. 

Symptoms of powdery mildew on tomato leaves from a field in Florida.


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The disease is caused by Oidium neolycopersici in Florida. The perfect or sexual state, Erysiphae, is rarely seen in nature and never has been observed in Florida.

In western regions of the United States and other parts of the world, powdery mildew may also be caused by the fungus Leveillula taurica. These powdery mildew fungi are obligate parasites; they can only survive on a living host. The fungus produces specialized feeding structures called haustoria that invade host cells to extract nutrients. The removal of nutrients from host cells causes the yellowing and eventual necrosis of tomato tissue. The plant is not killed by this disease, but is progressively weakened and productivity greatly decreased.

The fungus reproduces by producing spores, conidia, which are borne on conidiophores. A conidiophore-bearing conidia is shown in Figure 4. Conidia are easily dislodged by the wind and carried long distances. The conidia land on leaves, where they germinate and enter the leaf through stomates. The fungus grows at moderate to cool temperatures. Epidemics have been noted during relatively dry conditions. The pathogen has a wide host range and probably survives on other hosts or volunteer tomato plants from season to season.

Figure 4. 

Conidiophore and conidia of Oidium sp. on tomato.


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Greenhouses typically provide ideal conditions for disease development and spread. An integrated approach should be used to control powdery mildew in the greenhouse. Practices that maintain high relative humidity should be utilized. Infected plants should be removed from the house, which should be sanitized after production. Registered fungicides should be applied to plants as soon as symptoms are observed.

In the field, control measures have not been needed in Florida. However, if the disease were to become more problematic, control measures would include scouting, rouging of infected plants, use of resistant varieties, and spraying preventative chemicals.

Footnotes

1.

This document is PP-191, one of a series of the Plant Pathology, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date May 2001. Revised September 2008. Reviewed April 2014. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Gary Vallad, assistant professor, Plant Pathology Department, Gulf Coast Research and Education Center--Wimauma. FL; Pamela Roberts, associate professor, Plant Pathology Department, Southwest Florida Research and Education Center, Immokalee, FL; Timur Momol, professor, Plant Pathology Department, and district director, Office of District Directors--Gainesville, FL; and Ken Pernezny, professor, Plant Pathology Department, Everglades Research and Education Center--Belle Glade, FL, UF/IFAS Extension.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.