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Systemic spread of downy mildew in basil plants and detection of the pathogen in seed and plant samples

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Downy mildew on sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum L.) occurs worldwide. Contaminated seeds are considered as the primary inoculum source. So far no strategy to control the disease is available. Hence, the use of pathogen-free seeds is the only alternative to prevent disease outbreaks. Therefore, a rapid diagnostic method for seed testing is urgently needed. The sensitivity of a specific PCR method for direct detection of the downy mildew pathogen Peronospora belbahrii on basil samples, particularly on seeds, was evaluated. The applied PCR method proved to be very sensitive for direct detection of the pathogen on seeds and plant samples. The PCR detection limit of P. belbahrii in artificially infested seeds corresponded to the DNA amount of a single spore per seed. Additionally, the systemic spread of the pathogen from naturally infected seeds was investigated. The experiments showed that outgrowing basil plants were latently infected with the downy mildew pathogen, and the infection continued within the plant. Contaminated seeds were harvested from symptomless latently infected plants. These results support the implementation of PCR-based detection in a seed certification scheme and the necessity to control the pathogen on seeds. The PCR method can also be used for evaluation of pathogen control on seeds based on detection of the pathogen in outgrowing plants.

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The authors thank Sieglinde Widiger, Sabine Breitkopf and Mandy Heinze for valuable technical and practical assistance. We are also grateful to the colleagues of the institute who supported the horticultural work. This research was supported by the Federal Office for Agriculture and Food (BLE, Germany).

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Correspondence to Rita Grosch.

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Djalali Farahani-Kofoet, R., Römer, P. & Grosch, R. Systemic spread of downy mildew in basil plants and detection of the pathogen in seed and plant samples. Mycol Progress 11, 961–966 (2012).

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