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A Production System for High Value Crops at Risk From Downy Mildew: Integrating Detection, Breeding, Extension, and Education

Hausbeck, Mary
Michigan State University
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End date

The goal of our Coordinated Agricultural Project (CAP) is to improve/develop novel Agricultural Production Systems that detect and track downy mildew (DM) pathogens and contain them through sustainable and effective mitigation. To accomplish this we will focus on the following food crop/DM pathogen combinations: cucurbits/Pseudoperonospora cubensis, spinach/Peronospora effusa, lettuce/Bremia lactucae, and basil/Peronospora belbahrii.

OBJECTIVE 1. Early detection and rapid diagnostics: We will improve early detection by developing rapid diagnostics for DM that will alert growers of pathogen influx/overwintering, and distinguish among DM species. A DM database with diagnostic tools will be generated and hosted at the unified project website proposed in Objective 2.1i) Species-specific genetic markers for diagnostics.1ii) Diagnostic assays for early detection: cucurbits, lettuce, spinach, basil.1iii) Fungicide-resistance diagnostics: lettuce spinach, basil.

OBJECTIVE 2. Tracking pathogen dispersal and survival: We will prevent and contain specific DM pathogens by establishing a website that will track DM outbreaks nationwide, provide data that will support optimal timing of fungicide applications, quantify fungicide activity, report overwintering sources, and provide control recommendations.2i) Expand the national DM tracking website: cucurbits, basil.2ii) Deploy molecular diagnostics: spore trapping cucurbits, basil; field test cucumber, spinach, lettuce, basil.2iii) Provide grower alerts based on DM inoculum strength: cucurbits.2iv) Determine DM survival: cucumber, melon.2v) Quantify duration of disease control with DM fungicides: cucumber, watermelon, cantaloupe, basil.

OBJECTIVE 3. Developing DM-resistant crops: We will develop improved resistant basil, spinach, and cucumber germplasm.3i) Develop DM-resistant crop germplasm: basil, spinach, cucumber.3ii) Participatory plant breeding of DM-resistant: cucumbers.

OBJECTIVE 4. Cost/benefit ratios and grower adoption: We will compare economic costs, returns and risks of grower acceptance and adoption of strategies including a cost analysis of new, resistant germplasm, and DM prevention, diagnostic, and forecasting systems.4i) Baseline DM disease impacts to food security.4ii) Economic impact of the behavioral, social, and environmental outcomes.

OBJECTIVE 5. Outreach and adoption: We will conduct a nationwide outreach program to increase adoption of DM mitigation strategies and increase fungicide efficiency. We will host a national conference for researchers, extension educations, and producers. The effectiveness of our outreach activities will be evaluated.5i) DM monitoring/forecasting systems.5ii) Deployment of DM-resistant breeding lines/varieties.5iii) Seed testing for basil DM.5iv) Field spray recommendations.5v) National conference.5vi) Social media.

OBJECTIVE 6. Attract students to agricultural sciences: We will provide research and extension education opportunities to undergraduate students via summer internship programs.

More information
Downy mildews are devastating diseases that infect many vegetable crops important to healthy diets (lettuce, spinach, cucumber, melon, pumpkin, squash, onion, broccoli, cabbage) and valuable local and export crops (hop, basil, sunflower) that are worth $7.5 billion yearly to U.S. growers. Our team proposes a team-based scientific approach to develop a growing system that limits the destructive effects of these downy mildew diseases. We will (1) use DNA and molecular biology to quickly identify downy mildew disease of cucumber, melon, pumpkin, squash, lettuce, spinach and basil, and determine if it is resistant to fungicides, (2) track downy mildew disease of cucumber, melon, pumpkin, squash and basil yearly on a map at a website that growers and home gardeners can access, (3) breed basil, spinach and cucumber plants that are resistant to downy mildew, (4) evaluate whether our research solutions will be economical, (5) inform growers and the public of our research, and (5) involve college students in our research so they can be better prepared for jobs once they graduate. Growers will limit the losses from downy mildew diseases of cucumber, melon, pumpkin, squash, lettuce, spinach and basil by making informed decisions based on tested solutions developed through science. We will educate diverse and underrepresented college students in agricultural sciences. The solutions from our research will apply to other crops affected by other types of downy mildews because the pathogens that cause these diseases are similar. Therefore, this project will also benefit a wide group of growers and consumers interested in onion, sunflower, hop, broccoli, and cabbage.
Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Food and Agriculture
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Bacterial Pathogens