The best way to sustainably control downy mildew in sunflower

Downy Mildew (DM) is a serious pathogen when it comes to sunflowers because, when the pathogen infects the plant, there is no curative solution: as soon as you see the visible part of the disease in the field (dwarf plants, yellowing on the leaves) you can no longer change the situation.

The main issue with this fungus is its capacity to evolve, and evolved it has; today, we can see different races in different places. In addition, the pathogen can stay in the soil for over 10 years and reappear without warning.

The damage it wreaks depends on the situation, but downy mildew can destroy an entire field, though this is really rare. If the conditions, such as rainy weather with a good temperature, are good for the growth of this fungus (Plasmopara halstedii), it can destroy a big part of the field. The effect on the final yield can be considerable when more than 10% of the plants are infected.

Lidea has had a breeding program against sunflower DM for more than 30 years. Sunflower DM is, together with Orobanche resistance, oil content, and yield capacity, among the main breeding goals in this crop. The challenge is to find the balance between all these criteria to have good varieties to respond to local issues. In a nutshell, the Lidea breeding teams work on stacking the right genes.

To help farmers against the disease, European Seed is launching Mildew Master, a seed solution for the sustainable control of DM through the genetic approach. The objective is to offer varieties of sunflowers with the best adapted genetic behavior against the disease, in order to preserve both fields and farmers, and at the same time to manage this pathogen with sustainability and accuracy.

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