Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Datasheet

Peronosclerospora sorghi
(sorghum downy mildew)

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Datasheet

Peronosclerospora sorghi (sorghum downy mildew)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 27 September 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Natural Enemy
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Peronosclerospora sorghi
  • Preferred Common Name
  • sorghum downy mildew
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Chromista
  •     Phylum: Oomycota
  •       Class: Oomycetes
  •         Order: Sclerosporales
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • P. sorghi causes sorghum downy mildew, which can result in severe economic losses of both sorghum and maize. It has been a particularly invasive pathogen: it was introduced to the Americas where it has spread o...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Typical chlorotic streaks of systemic infection.
TitleSymptoms on sorghum leaf
CaptionTypical chlorotic streaks of systemic infection.
CopyrightRob Williams/CAB International
Typical chlorotic streaks of systemic infection.
Symptoms on sorghum leafTypical chlorotic streaks of systemic infection.Rob Williams/CAB International
Chlorotic streaks showing limit of systemic infection on lower leaf.
TitleSymptoms on sorghum leaf
CaptionChlorotic streaks showing limit of systemic infection on lower leaf.
CopyrightRob Williams/CAB International
Chlorotic streaks showing limit of systemic infection on lower leaf.
Symptoms on sorghum leafChlorotic streaks showing limit of systemic infection on lower leaf.Rob Williams/CAB International
TitleSymptoms on sorghum leaves
Caption
CopyrightR.A. Frederiksen
Symptoms on sorghum leavesR.A. Frederiksen
Systemic infection of the whole leaf.
TitleSymptoms on sorghum leaf
CaptionSystemic infection of the whole leaf.
CopyrightRob Williams/CAB International
Systemic infection of the whole leaf.
Symptoms on sorghum leafSystemic infection of the whole leaf.Rob Williams/CAB International
Shredding of mature systemically infected sorghum leaves, releasing the oospores which had formed in the infected tissue.
TitleSymptoms on sorghum leaves
CaptionShredding of mature systemically infected sorghum leaves, releasing the oospores which had formed in the infected tissue.
CopyrightRob Williams/CAB International
Shredding of mature systemically infected sorghum leaves, releasing the oospores which had formed in the infected tissue.
Symptoms on sorghum leavesShredding of mature systemically infected sorghum leaves, releasing the oospores which had formed in the infected tissue.Rob Williams/CAB International
Systemically infected sorghum plant showing chlorosis and shredding.
TitleSymptoms on sorghum plant
CaptionSystemically infected sorghum plant showing chlorosis and shredding.
CopyrightRob Williams/CAB International
Systemically infected sorghum plant showing chlorosis and shredding.
Symptoms on sorghum plantSystemically infected sorghum plant showing chlorosis and shredding.Rob Williams/CAB International
Sorghum heads showing varying degrees of sterility due to systemic infection.
TitleSymptoms on sorghum heads
CaptionSorghum heads showing varying degrees of sterility due to systemic infection.
CopyrightRob Williams/CAB International
Sorghum heads showing varying degrees of sterility due to systemic infection.
Symptoms on sorghum headsSorghum heads showing varying degrees of sterility due to systemic infection. Rob Williams/CAB International
Stunted maize plants.
TitleSymptoms on maize
CaptionStunted maize plants.
Copyright©CIMMYT
Stunted maize plants.
Symptoms on maizeStunted maize plants.©CIMMYT
Sorghum downy mildew of maize.
TitleSymptoms on maize plant
CaptionSorghum downy mildew of maize.
CopyrightRob Williams/CAB International
Sorghum downy mildew of maize.
Symptoms on maize plantSorghum downy mildew of maize.Rob Williams/CAB International
A mature conidiophore (180-300 µm) of P. sorghi showing the basal cell, the main body of the conidiophore and the conidia attached to the sterigmata.
TitleMature conidiophore
CaptionA mature conidiophore (180-300 µm) of P. sorghi showing the basal cell, the main body of the conidiophore and the conidia attached to the sterigmata.
CopyrightICRISAT
A mature conidiophore (180-300 µm) of P. sorghi showing the basal cell, the main body of the conidiophore and the conidia attached to the sterigmata.
Mature conidiophoreA mature conidiophore (180-300 µm) of P. sorghi showing the basal cell, the main body of the conidiophore and the conidia attached to the sterigmata.ICRISAT
The asexual phase of P. sorghi. Conidia (15.0-28.9 x 15.0-26.9 µm) are hyaline, thin-walled and suborbicular. Some conidia are in the process of germinating by a single, unbranched hyphal germ-tube.
TitleAsexual phase of P. sorghi
CaptionThe asexual phase of P. sorghi. Conidia (15.0-28.9 x 15.0-26.9 µm) are hyaline, thin-walled and suborbicular. Some conidia are in the process of germinating by a single, unbranched hyphal germ-tube.
CopyrightICRISAT
The asexual phase of P. sorghi. Conidia (15.0-28.9 x 15.0-26.9 µm) are hyaline, thin-walled and suborbicular. Some conidia are in the process of germinating by a single, unbranched hyphal germ-tube.
Asexual phase of P. sorghiThe asexual phase of P. sorghi. Conidia (15.0-28.9 x 15.0-26.9 µm) are hyaline, thin-walled and suborbicular. Some conidia are in the process of germinating by a single, unbranched hyphal germ-tube.ICRISAT
The sexual phase of P. sorghi. The oospores (31.0-36.9 µm) are thick-walled and spherical.
TitleOospores
CaptionThe sexual phase of P. sorghi. The oospores (31.0-36.9 µm) are thick-walled and spherical.
CopyrightICRISAT
The sexual phase of P. sorghi. The oospores (31.0-36.9 µm) are thick-walled and spherical.
OosporesThe sexual phase of P. sorghi. The oospores (31.0-36.9 µm) are thick-walled and spherical.ICRISAT

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Peronosclerospora sorghi (W. Weston & Uppal) C.G. Shaw

Preferred Common Name

  • sorghum downy mildew

Other Scientific Names

  • Sclerospora andropogonis-sorghi (Kulk.) Mundk.
  • Sclerospora graminicola var. andropogonis-sorghi Kulk.
  • Sclerospora sorghi W. Weston & Uppal
  • Sorosporium andropogonis-sorghi S. Ito

International Common Names

  • English: mildew of maize and sorghum
  • Spanish: mildiú belloso; mildiú del sorgo
  • French: mildiou du sorgho

Local Common Names

  • Germany: Falscher Mehltau: Hirse; Falscher Mehltau: Mais

EPPO code

  • PRSCSO (Peronosclerospora sorghi)

Summary of Invasiveness

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P. sorghi causes sorghum downy mildew, which can result in severe economic losses of both sorghum and maize. It has been a particularly invasive pathogen: it was introduced to the Americas where it has spread on both sorghum and maize causing considerable damage (Frederiksen et al., 1973). Quarantine restrictions probably maintained the USA free of sorghum downy mildew until the early 1960s (Reyes et al., 1964; Frederiksen, 1980a). Information on the spread of the disease and the damage it causes is available in the literature reporting its spread in the USA (Frederiksen et al., 1970) and elsewhere in the Americas (Frezzi, 1970; Grobman, 1975; Burtica et al., 1992).

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Chromista
  •         Phylum: Oomycota
  •             Class: Oomycetes
  •                 Order: Sclerosporales
  •                     Family: Sclerosporaceae
  •                         Genus: Peronosclerospora
  •                             Species: Peronosclerospora sorghi

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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A downy mildew infecting sorghum was originally described as Sclerospora graminicola Sacc J. Schot. (Butler, 1907), the same species that infected pearl millet. However, Kulkarni (1913) observed that the asexual phase germinated by means of a germ tube rather than zoospores from a sporangium, and thus designated it varietal rank as S. graminicola var. andropogonis sorghi Kulkarni. Further observations of the host range and morphology resulted in the pathogen being renamed S. sorghi Weston and Uppal (Butler, 1918; Weston, 1924; Uppal and Desai, 1931, 1932; Weston and Uppal, 1932). Ito (1913) first suggested construction of a sub-genus Peronosclerospora on the basis of spore germination, and Shirai and Hara (1928) suggested the difference warranted generic status. Shaw (1978) eventually constructed the genus Peronosclerospora in which were placed all graminaceous downy mildews that produced conidia rather than sporangia, including P. sorghi Weston and Uppal Shaw. Recent work on the molecular genetics of these pathogens have shown Peronosclerospora to warrant generic rank (Perumal et al., 2008; Thines et al., 2008).  

A downy mildew pathogen infecting maize but not sorghum in Rajasthan, India, was initially identified as Sclerospora sorghi Weston and Uppal. (Dange et al., 1974). Subsequent studies revealed that this pathogen on maize was noticeably different from the one occurring in the south of India. The pathogen from Rajasthan has Heteropogon contortus as its natural host, on which it produces both conidia and oospores; but forms only conidia on maize. This organism was consequently renamed Peronosclerospora heteropogoni Siradhana, Dange, Rathore and Singh sp. nov. (Siradhana et al., 1980).

A second maize pathotype of P. sorghi described from Thailand has also been given specific status (Yao et al., 1991a, b, 1992).

Another maize-infecting downy mildew has been identified causing disease in the humid forest zone of southern Nigeria (Fajemisin, 1980; Anaso et al., 1987). It has been designated as P. sorghi, but does not infect sorghum, and molecular studies did not differentiate an isolate from maize in southern Nigeria from the typical sorghum/maize infecting strain of P. sorghi (Yao et al., 1992).

Description

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Mycelium: The mycelium is coenocytic, intercellular and forms haustoria (Francis et al., 1983).

Conidiophores: The conidiophores are erect, determinate, hyaline, and up to 300 µm in length (180-300 µm). They consist of a basal cell, separated by a septum from the main trunk, and a much branched top. The trunk tapers gradually towards the basal cell which usually has a small, bulbous base. The branching system comprises a series of short, stout dichotomies usually involving primary, secondary and tertiary branches terminating in in tapered, elongated sterigmata, about 13 µm long, each bearing a single conidium (Francis et al., 1983). The branches are arranged such that the conidia borne on the sterigmata lie approximately in a hemispherical plane (Weston and Uppal, 1932). Conidiophores emerge, either singly or in groups, from stomata on the lower, and sometimes the upper, sides of leaves.

Conidia: Conidia are 15-29 x 15-27 µm, most frequently 21-25 x 19-23 µm, subglobose, hyaline, non-poroid and non-papillate (Weston and Uppal, 1932; Francis et al., 1983). Hence, they germinate by a germ tube in free water and penetrate the leaves directly through the stomata.

Oogonia: The oogonia are spherical, 40-55 µm in diameter, with irregularly polygonally-angled walls closely enveloping the single, hyaline, spherical oospore within. The oogonia develop chiefly in the mesophyll between the fibrovasular bundles (Weston and Uppal, 1932; Francis et al., 1983).

Oospores: Oospores are 31-37 µm diameter (extremes ranging from 25 to 43 µm), spherical, and hyaline with a light yellow (Mars Yellow of Ridgeway’s 'Colour Standards') outer wall (1.1-2.7 µm thick), formed from the collapsed oogonial wall (Weston and Uppal, 1932; Francis et al., 1983). When the oospores are mature, the sorghum leaves disintegrate into tangled fibres, releasing the oospores. The oospores germinate by a wide, unseptate germ tube (~4.4 µm thick). There are a few reports of oospores forming in maize, but if they do, they tend to be scattered throughout the mesophyll (Malaguti, 1978), and the leaves have only rarely been reported to shred (Bigirwa et al., 1998, 2000).

P. sorghi is an obligate biotroph and completes its life-cycle on the host. Although it has not been grown in axenic culture, attempts have been made to grow the pathogen on tissue cultures of the host (Mauch-Mani et al., 1989; Gowda and Bhat, 1992) but these methods have not been applied widely.

Distribution

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P. sorghi exists in Africa, the Indian sub-continent, South-East Asia and North, Central and South America (Williams, 1984).

Previous records of the presence of P. sorghi in Western Australia (Sundaram et al., 1972) and Queensland (Jensen et al., 1989; UK CAB International, 1988; EPPO, 2009) are now considered doubtful (Wang et al., 2000). There is no report of the disease in Europe and sorghum downy mildew is not listed as a disease of concern there (Forbes, 1992).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes

Asia

BangladeshPresentNativeUK CAB International, 1988; EPPO, 2014
CambodiaPresentKim et al., 2007
ChinaPresentEPPO, 2014
-HenanPresentUK CAB International, 1988; EPPO, 2014
East TimorPresentKim et al., 2007
IndiaWidespreadNativeButler, 1907; UK CAB International, 1988; Jensen et al., 1989; EPPO, 2014
-Andhra PradeshPresentNativeSundaram et al., 1972
-DelhiPresentNativeSundaram et al., 1972
-HaryanaPresentNativeSundaram et al., 1972
-KarnatakaPresentNativeShetty and Ahmad, 1980; Rajasab and Ramalingam, 1985
-KeralaPresentNativeMohan and Jeyarajan, 1991a; Mohan and Jeyarajan, 1991b
-Madhya PradeshPresentNativeSundaram et al., 1972
-MaharashtraPresentNativeSundaram et al., 1972
-RajasthanPresentDange, 1976; Kothari et al., 1980
-Tamil NaduPresentNativeLakshmanan and Mohan, 1989a; Lakshmanan and Mohan, 1989b
IndonesiaPresentKim et al., 2007
IranPresentUK CAB International, 1988; Izadpanah and Afsharifar, 1990; EPPO, 2014
IsraelPresentKenneth, 1975; Sherman et al., 1975; UK CAB International, 1988; EPPO, 2014
JapanPresentIntroducedExconde and Tantera, 1975; Fuji, 1975; UK CAB International, 1988; EPPO, 2014
NepalPresentEPPO, 2014
PakistanPresentNativeUK CAB International, 1988; EPPO, 2014
PhilippinesPresentUK CAB International, 1988; EPPO, 2014
TaiwanPresentChang et al., 1974
ThailandPresentNativeBhat et al., 1979; ICRISAT, 1982; EPPO, 2014
VietnamPresentLi, 1983; Kim et al., 2007
YemenPresentMilliano et al., 1988; White and Wiesner, 1991; EPPO, 2014

Africa

BeninPresentNativeUK CAB International, 1988; EPPO, 2014
BotswanaPresentNativeUK CAB International, 1988; Milliano, 1992; EPPO, 2014
Burkina FasoPresentNativeICRISAT, 1982
BurundiPresentNativeUK CAB International, 1988; EPPO, 2014
EgyptPresentNativeMelchers, 1931; UK CAB International, 1988; EPPO, 2014
EthiopiaPresentNativeGuiragossian, 1986; UK CAB International, 1988; EPPO, 2014
GhanaPresentNativeUK CAB International, 1988; EPPO, 2014
KenyaPresentNativeUK CAB International, 1988; Ngugi et al., 2002; EPPO, 2014
MalawiPresentNativeUK CAB International, 1988; EPPO, 2014
MauritaniaPresentFrison and Sadio, 1987
MauritiusPresent
MozambiquePresentNativeBock et al., 1998b; UK CAB International, 1988; EPPO, 2014
NigeriaWidespreadNativeHarris, 1962; UK CAB International, 1988; Olanya et al., 1993; Kutama et al., 2010; EPPO, 2014A maize-infecting strain is restricted to the humid south of Nigeria (Olanya et al., 1993; Bock et al., 1998b).
RwandaWidespreadNativeBock et al., 1998b; Gatsinzi, 1984; EPPO, 2014
SomaliaPresentNativeCastellani and Mohamed, 1981; EPPO, 2014
South AfricaPresentNativeStorey and McClean, 1930; Westhuizen, 1977; UK CAB International, 1988; EPPO, 2014
SudanPresentNativeUK CAB International, 1988; EPPO, 2014
SwazilandPresentNativeUK CAB International, 1988; EPPO, 2014
TanzaniaPresentNativeDoggett, 1970; UK CAB International, 1988; EPPO, 2014
UgandaPresentNativeDoggett, 1970; UK CAB International, 1988; Bigirwa et al., 1998; EPPO, 2014
ZambiaWidespreadNativeMilliano, 1992
ZimbabwePresentNativeUK CAB International, 1988; Gomez et al., 1991; Milliano, 1992; EPPO, 2014

North America

MexicoPresent, few occurrencesIntroduced Invasive Garza et al., 1985; UK CAB International, 1988; Prom et al., 2011; EPPO, 2014
USAWidespreadIntroduced Invasive EPPO, 2014
-AlabamaPresentIntroduced Invasive Futrell and Frederiksen, 1970; UK CAB International, 1988; EPPO, 2014
-ArkansasPresentIntroduced Invasive Futrell and Frederiksen, 1970; UK CAB International, 1988; EPPO, 2014
-GeorgiaPresentIntroduced Invasive Futrell and Frederiksen, 1970; Fleming, 1974; UK CAB International, 1988; EPPO, 2014
-IllinoisPresentIntroduced Invasive White et al., 1978; UK CAB International, 1988; Pataky et al., 1990; EPPO, 2014
-IndianaPresentIntroduced Invasive Warren et al., 1974; UK CAB International, 1988; EPPO, 2014
-KansasPresentIntroduced Invasive Lengkeek and Sim, 1979; Sim, 1980; UK CAB International, 1988; EPPO, 2014
-KentuckyPresentIntroduced Invasive Williams and Herron, 1974; UK CAB International, 1988; EPPO, 2014
-LouisianaPresentIntroduced Invasive Futrell and Frederiksen, 1970; UK CAB International, 1988; EPPO, 2014
-MarylandPresentSchmitt and Freytag, 1974
-MinnesotaPresentIntroduced Invasive EPPO, 2014
-MississippiPresentIntroduced Invasive Futrell and Frederiksen, 1970; UK CAB International, 1988; EPPO, 2014
-MissouriPresentIntroduced Invasive UK CAB International, 1988; EPPO, 2014
-NebraskaPresentIntroduced Invasive Partridge & Doupnick, 1979; UK CAB International, 1988; EPPO, 2014
-NevadaPresentIntroduced Invasive EPPO, 2014
-New MexicoPresentIntroduced Invasive Futrell and Frederiksen, 1970; UK CAB International, 1988; EPPO, 2014
-OklahomaPresentIntroduced Invasive Futrell and Frederiksen, 1970; UK CAB International, 1988; EPPO, 2014
-TennesseePresentIntroduced Invasive Futrell and Frederiksen, 1970; UK CAB International, 1988; EPPO, 2014
-TexasPresentIntroduced Invasive Reyes et al., 1964; Frederiksen et al., 1973; UK CAB International, 1988; EPPO, 2014

Central America and Caribbean

El SalvadorPresentIntroduced Invasive Wall, 1976; UK CAB International, 1988; EPPO, 2014
GuatemalaPresentIntroduced Invasive Futrell, 1974; UK CAB International, 1988; EPPO, 2014
HondurasPresentIntroduced Invasive UK CAB International, 1988; Wall et al., 1989; EPPO, 2014
NicaraguaPresentIntroduced Invasive EPPO, 2014
PanamaPresentIntroduced Invasive Frederiksen and Renfro, 1977; UK CAB International, 1988; EPPO, 2014
Puerto RicoPresentIntroduced Invasive Hepperly and Craig, 1986; UK CAB International, 1988; EPPO, 2014

South America

ArgentinaPresentIntroduced Invasive Frezzi, 1970; UK CAB International, 1988; EPPO, 2014
BoliviaPresentIntroduced Invasive Frederiksen and Renfro, 1977; UK CAB International, 1988; EPPO, 2014
BrazilPresentIntroduced Invasive Barbosa et al., 2006; EPPO, 2014
-Minas GeraisPresentIntroducedBarbosa et al., 2005
-Rio Grande do SulPresentIntroducedUK CAB International, 1988; EPPO, 2014
-Santa CatarinaPresentIntroducedUK CAB International, 1988; EPPO, 2014
ColombiaPresentIntroduced Invasive Arias et al., 1993; Buritica, 1993
PeruPresentEPPO, 2014
UruguayPresentIntroducedFrederiksen and Renfro, 1977; UK CAB International, 1988; EPPO, 2014
VenezuelaPresentIntroduced Invasive Fernandez et al., 1975; Malaguti, 1976; UK CAB International, 1988; EPPO, 2014

Europe

ItalyAbsent, invalid recordEPPO, 2014

Oceania

AustraliaAbsent, unreliable recordWang et al., 2000; EPPO, 2014
-New South WalesPresentWang et al., 2000
-QueenslandAbsent, unreliable recordWang et al., 2000; EPPO, 2014
-Western AustraliaAbsent, unreliable recordWang et al., 2000; EPPO, 2014

History of Introduction and Spread

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P. sorghi was introduced to the Americas in the mid to late 1950s, probably in the Central American region, possibly Panama (Toler et al., 1959; Futrell, 1974). It reached the USA in the early 1960s (Reyes et al., 1964) and has subsequently spread to many other countries in Central and South America. P. sorghi is widespread in Africa and Asia (Williams, 1984; Jeger et al., 1998). It is thought that the pathogen co-evolved on sorghum in Africa (Williams, 1984) although other theories suggest Asia (Shaw, 1981; Weltzein, 1981). It can be considered endemic on these two continents.

Introductions

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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Central America 1956-1959 No No Frederiksen and Renfro (1977); Toler et al. (1959)
South America 1856-1975 No No Frederiksen and Renfro (1977)
USA Central America 1961 No No Frederiksen (1980a); Frederiksen et al. (1970); Reyes et al. (1964)

Risk of Introduction

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P. sorghi can exist as long-lived oospores in the soil or diseased foliage, or as hyphae in infected living material (such as seedlings). If conditions are conducive it will produce asexual conidia, which although ephemeral can spread effectively at a local scale and rapidly create an epidemic. It can also be seedborne, and considering the worldwide trade in both sorghum and maize it is not surprising it has become so widespread. Thus, apart from the special case of Australia (Wang et al., 2000), the threat might be less one of introduction of the pathogen, but rather the arrival of new strains that might be pathogenic on locally grown varieties. Thus, the phytosanitary risk is relatively low because it already is widely distributed throughout the world on both maize and sorghum. The risk of seed transmission can be minimised using a metalaxyl seed treatment.

Habitat

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P. sorghi can complete its life-cycle in fairly arid environments typical of where sorghum is cultivated. The sexual phase (oospores) allow the pathogen to be soil-borne and survive relatively harsh, dry conditions. However, the asexual, conidial phase has fairly exacting requirements of temperature and relative humidity, and the conidia are ephemeral (Bonde, 1982).

Habitat List

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CategorySub-CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial
Terrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Principal habitat Natural
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural grasslands Present, no further details Natural

Hosts/Species Affected

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P. sorghi appears to infect only grasses in the Andropoganeae, Maydeae and Paniceae (Bonde and Freytag, 1979). Hosts by artificial inoculation include Andropogon ternarius (Bonde and Freytag, 1979), but recovery was rapid and complete. Reported infections of Panicum trypheron [P. curviflorum] (McCrae, 1934) and Pennisetum americanum [P. glaucum] (Castellani, 1939) have not been confirmed. Anaso (1989) reported local lesions formed by the maize-infecting strain on Sorghum arundinaceum and Heteropogon contortus.   

In addition to the list of hosts Sorghum nitidum, S. arundinaceum, Sorghum x almum, Sorghum x drummondii (S. bicolor x S. arundinaceum), and a hybrid S. bicolor x S. sudanense are also natural hosts of P. sorghi.

Wild or native Sorghum sp., hybrids and some wild grasses can be a source of inoculum for spread of the disease to cultivated sorghum or maize.

Hosts by artificial inoculation include Dactyloctenium aegyptium and Rottboellia cochinchinensis.

Growth Stages

Top of page Pre-emergence, Seedling stage, Vegetative growing stage

Symptoms

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Two types of symptoms have been described on sorghum: local lesions on the leaf lamina and systemic infection from an early oospore or conidia-mediated infection event resulting in colonization of the meristematic region (Frederiksen et al., 1973; Williams, 1984; Jeger et al., 1998). Systemic infection in sorghum and maize is characterized by leaf chlorosis (which invariably includes the leaf base), which usually appears ~2 weeks or more after sowing (symptom expression being dependent on the timing of infection). The intersection between the diseased and healthy tissue is sharply defined (resulting in the 'half-leaf symptom'). Progressively greater proportions of the lamina on subsequently emerged leaves show chlorosis, until most or all of the lamina is chlorotic. The first leaf is free from infection; this may be caused by the first leaf outgrowing the pathogen, which requires time to invade the root and stem tissue, or the existence of a passive defence mechanism in the first leaf which prevents entry of the pathogen (Safeeulla, 1974).

In cool, humid weather the asexual structures (conidiophores and conidia) of the pathogen appear on the surface of the diseased leaves, giving a white, down-like appearance.

Infected plants can be stunted. On sorghum, whitish streaks develop from the base of the younger leaves, which turn brown as the oospores produced in rows in the fibrovascular bundles mature; the lamina of these leaves begins to tear length-wise, causing the characteristic symptom of 'leaf-shredding'. This process releases oospores from within the sorghum leaf (Bock et al., 1995). Leaf-shredding does not often occur in maize, and if oospores are formed they are scattered throughout the leaf mesophyll (Malaguti, 1978). With the so-called maize-infecting strain in southern Nigeria, Adenle and Cardwell (2000) observed oospores in the seed and in the systemically infected tassle tissue, although Anaso (1989) was unable to find any evidence of oospores.

The leaves of infected sorghum and maize plants tend to be narrower and more erect than those of healthy plants; the plants are often stunted and can die, and they are typically sterile, or have abnormal seed set. The pith of systemically-infected maize plants can show a mottled, brown discoloration, with the stem showing excessive brace root formation, abnormal tallness, as well as being barren (Warren et al., 1974). However, symptom remission of systemic infection has been reported on sorghum (Sing and Milliano, 1989a, b) and maize (Kenneth, 1976; Olanya and Fajemisin, 1992). The plants lose all symptoms and produce normal inflorescences that are fully fertile. The cause of symptom remission is unknown. Nor is it known whether the pathogen remains cryptic in the host. On maize in some regions, tassels affected by phyllody have been observed.

Local lesions on sorghum are discreet, chlorotic areas, elongate with parallel edges, 1-4 × 5-15 mm (Williams, 1984) with conidia being produced mostly on the lower surface. Local lesions are rarely produced on maize (Kenneth, 1976).

List of Symptoms/Signs

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SignLife StagesType
Inflorescence / abnormal leaves (phyllody)
Inflorescence / twisting and distortion
Leaves / abnormal colours
Leaves / abnormal forms
Leaves / fungal growth
Leaves / shredding
Stems / internal discoloration
Whole plant / distortion; rosetting

Biology and Ecology

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Both conidia (the asexual phase) and oospores (the sexual phase) can play important roles in the life-cycle of the pathogen, and infection from both can result in epidemics of downy mildew on sorghum and maize.

Conidia production, dispersal and infection

The development of the asexual phase has been described. Stout, turgid groups of hyphae organise into conidiophore initials in the sub-stomatal cavity and are pushed out of the stomata where they differentiate into condiophores, with the first knob-like outgrowths taking about 4 h to form, and the conidioiphore taking an additional 2 h to fully differentiate and develop tertiary branching tipped by tapering sterigmata with mature conidia (Safeeulla, 1976; Lal, 1981). 

For conidia to develop the host must be exposed to at least 4 h light (Schmitt and Freytag, 1974; Dange and Williams, 1980). In the subsequent dark period, high humidity (close to 100%) is critical, with an optimum temperature of 21-22°C. No sporulation occurs at >30°C or <13°C (Shetty and Safeeulla, 1981a; Bonde et al., 1985; Bock et al., 1998a). When the conidia are mature, they appear to be ejected from the conidiophore (Kenneth, 1970) and germinate shortly thereafter or die within a few hours. The optimal temperature for germination and germ tube growth is 15°C and 22°C, respectively (Bonde et al., 1978), although they have been observed to germinate and grow over a wider range of temperature (Rao et al., 1987a; Bock et al., 1999).

Conidia are typically produced between midnight and 05.00 h, with temperature of about 20°C and a minimum of 85% RH, and are dispersed by air currents (Kenneth, 1970; Shenoi and Ramalingham, 1979; Bock et al., 1998a). 

Infection through conidia is highly dependent on dew point temperature and duration (Bonde et al., 1978; Bock et al., 1999). On maize, systemic infection occurred at 14-22°C with a 2 h dew period, but still developed at 10-33°C with a 4 h dew period. Infection can occur during daylight hours or at night (Frederiksen et al., 1973). The conidial germ tube grows at random over the leaf surface with irregular swellings developing at the epidermal cell junctions (Jones, 1971) and when it encounters a stomata an appressorium forms over the stomatal opening. The penetrating structure enlarges to form an oval-shaped vesicle in the sub-stomatal cavity and this gives rise to infection hyphae. Primary haustoria form in the mesophyll cells (Kenneth and Shahor, 1973) which can lead to local lesions, or systemic infection if the plant is young enough. The pathogen does not infect the growing point of a systemically-infected plant, but grows just behind it. In resistant cultivars development of the pathogen is arrested at the early penetration site, but in susceptible cultivars it progresses to full colonization (Mauch-Mani et al., 1989).

Oospore production, dispersal and infection

In sorghum, the sexual phase develops as the result of the tips of hyphae in the intercellular spaces of the mesophyll differentiating into oogonia and antheridia initials (Safeeulla and Thirumalachar, 1955). The initials become rounded and nuclear division and migration occurs with eventually a single nucleus in the mature oogonium. The antheridial tube pushes its way into the oogonium, fusion of the two nuclei occurs, and the as the oospore develops the wall becomes differentiated into the endospore, periplasm, exospore and oogonial wall. No evidence of the antheridium remains. 

Oospores can be dispersed by man or animals in soil adhering to feet or implements, and possibly manure (Harris, 1962; King and Webster, 1970). They can be transmitted in seed and trash associated with seed (Bain and Alford, 1969; Frederiksen 1980b; Rao et al., 1987b). They can also be wind dispersed many metres from the soil, or from sorghum leaves with symptoms of shredding (Rajasab et al., 1979; Shenoi and Ramalingham, 1979Bock et al., 1997).

Oospores can survive harsh conditions (Futrell and Frederiksen, 1970) and remain viable for several years (Safeeulla, 1976; Craig, 1983). The processes of germination and infection are affected by temperature, moisture and soil structure. Oospore germination is optimal at 26 to 28°C (French and Schmitt, 1980). Maximum infection with oospores occurs between 24 and 29°C (Kenneth, 1970; Balasubramanian, 1974; Schuh et al., 1987a, b). Soil moisture also influences the process of infection and thus disease, with a soil temperature/moisture combination of -0.2 bar and a soil texture/inoculum density of 80% sand/5 g oospores/100 g soil resulting in the highest incidence of downy mildew in sorghum (Schuh et al., 1987a, b). No infection occurred at <20°C, suggesting wet soils, with a low sand content and at low temperatures would be suppressive to infection by oospores (Pratt and Janke, 1978). Bigirwa et al. (1998) also found sandy soils to be downy mildew conducive in Uganda. Rain shortly after planting may reduce infection (Tuleen and Frederiksen, 1981). Soil moisture was used to develop a tool to classify locations based on soil moisture for propensity to downy mildew caused by oospore infection (Schuh et al., 1987b). Infected sorghum plants had an aggregated distribution and tended to die prematurely (Schuh et al., 1986), and the spatial pattern of systemic sorghum downy mildew infected sorghum plants relates to the population density of oospores of P. sorghi in the soil (Schuh et al., 1988).

Reports of the effect of host roots on oospore germination are contradictory. Pratt (1978) observed no germination when roots were absent. Some reports suggest roots of both host and non-host species can cause germination (Pratt, 1978; Tuleen et al., 1980). Other reports confirmed host roots seemed to increase germination (Safeeulla, 1976; Torres and Polanco, 1977; Shetty and Safeeulla, 1981b) but could not provide evidence of germination in the presence of non-host roots (Safeeulla, 1976; Shetty and Safeeulla, 1981b). French and Schmitt (1980) were able to induce oospore germination in vitro using Furfural. Oospore germination and the factors that influence it remain poorly understood. The oospore germ tube appears to grow from any part of the oospore wall, and grows towards the meristematic region of the root, where it forms an appressorium and infection peg (Safeeulla, 1976).   

Seasonal disease development

Although oospores are often the primary source of infection, the conidial phase is thought to drive the epidemics in parts of India, Africa and Israel, where later-planted crops will often have a higher incidence of systemic disease due to conidia being produced on, and spread from oospore-infected plants in the early-sown crops (Cohen and Sherman, 1977Ramalingham and Rajasab, 1981; Gowda et al., 1987). Typically recent rainfall, suitable night-time temperatures and high relative humidities are required to allow conidia production, infection and subsequent epidemic development due to asexual spores (Kenneth, 1970; Shenoi and Ramalingham, 1979Li, 1983; Bock et al., 1998a). Alternative hosts (for example, Johnson Grass) can also play a role as sources of inoculum for maize or sorghum crops grown in the same vicinity (Kenneth, 1979; Bigirwa et al., 2000). Very limited modelling of the environmental factors that affect epidemics of P. sorghi has been made. Wang et al. (2000) chose various climatic parameters and factors based on the requirements of P. sorghi (relative humidity, night temperatures and night length) and used these to predict the risk of introduction and spread of the disease in different areas of Australia (Wang et al., 2000). The results of the study suggested that the greatest risk of the disease becoming established was in the north-east (Queensland), and even this was perceived of limited risk. P. sorghi does not occur in Australia (Wang et al., 2000).
 
The 'maize' strain of P. sorghi that exists in southern Nigeria may form oospores in maize seed (Adenle and Cardwell, 2000) although one study could find none (Anaso, 1989). They have not been observed in the leaves. Thus it is unlikely that the pathogen over seasons as soil-borne oospores. Alternative hosts are lacking (Anaso, 1989) so this strain may perpetuate soley by means of conidia from diseased maize plants. Three virtually overlapping maize crops are grown in this area (Anaso, 1989), which would allow the pathogen to sustain itself. Some infection might occur through farmer saved seed containing oospores (Adenle and Cardwell, 2000).

Maize and sorghum plants are susceptible to systemic infection for only the first 2-3 weeks of growth (Kenneth and Shahor, 1973; Jones, 1978). The physiological basis for this is not known, but possibly the internodes of the plant elongate too rapidly for the pathogen to reach the meristematic region, or the meristem differentiates rendering it resistant (Kennneth, 1976).

Seed Transmission

Seeds dried to moisture contents at which they can be stored may not transmit downy mildew pathogens (Jones et al., 1972; Sommartaya et al., 1975) although one report suggested infected maize seed was able to transmit the disease after storage at low moisture (Adenle and Cardwell, 2000).

Effect on host physiology

Reports suggest that the amino acid composition of the systemically infected foliage is reduced and altered by P. sorghi (Shetty et al., 1980). Chlorophyll content was also reduced and cation content modified (Balasubramanian, 1975, 1981). Shetty and Ahmad (1980) observed an increase in phenolics of susceptible sorghum plants or callus when infected with P. sorghi, but little is known regarding the biochemical processes affected in the host by P. sorghi in susceptible cultivars of sorghum or maize. 

Ecotypic variability

The ability of P. sorghi to produce conidia reportedly varies with a Texan isolate producing 2500 conidia cm2 (Futrell and Bain, 1968) compared to >12,000 conidia cm2 for an Indian isolate (Shetty and Safeeulla, 1981a). Duck et al. (1987) and Bock et al. (2000b) found sporulation within this range on both sorghum and maize.

Studies on the environmental requirements of isolates from various regions suggest there may be some specialization to local conditions (Bonde et al., 1978; Bonde et al., 1985). An Indian isolate (Safeeulla et al., 1974) was found to have slightly higher temperature requirements for germination compared to one from Texas (Bonde et al., 1978) although Bonde et al. (1985) later found both Texan and Indian isolates to be very similar in requirements for germination, germ tube growth and infection of maize. However, Bock et al. (2000b) compared seven isolates from sorghum and maize from different locations in Africa and found that all the isolates had similar temperature optima for conidia production, germination and germ tube growth, although the temperature optima for germination were higher than those reported by Bonde et al. (1978, 1985). Some variation in percentage conidia germinated and germ tube length at different temperatures among isolates from India has been reported (Rao et al., 1987a). These observations suggest the pathogen may have some limited capacity to adapt to different environmental conditions.

Pathogenic variability

There are different pathotypes of P. sorghi on sorghum (Kenneth, 1970). Resistance in the sorghum variety CS3541 first broke down in 1979 (Craig and Frederiksen, 1980). Subsequently various other lines lost resistance (Craig and Frederiksen, 1983) and many pathotypes have now been identified (Fernandes and Scaheffert, 1983; Pawar et al., 1985; Milliano et al., 1991; Craig and Odvody, 1992; Bock et al., 2000b). Three pathotypes existed in the USA until 2003, when epidemics suggested a loss of resistance (Isakeit et al., 2003; Isakeit and Jaster, 2005). In 1990, Milliano and Veld (1990) observed the previously universally resistant variety QL-3 was susceptible to local pathotypes of P. sorghi in Zimbabwe, and the pathotypes in Africa and Asia appears to be diverse (Pawar et al., 1985; Bock et al., 2000b).

Host specialization is reported. A pathotype confined to maize occurs in the southern humid zone of Nigeria where it causes substantial damage through systemic infection (Fajemisin, 1980; Olanya and Fajemisin, 1993).

Molecular variability

Much of the work including P. sorghi has been aimed at differentiating species of Peronosclerospora (Micales et al., 1987; Yao et al., 1991 a, b; Perumal et al., 2008). In relation to the maize-infecting strain from southern Nigeria, Yao et al. (1992) were unable to differentiate it from sorghum/maize-infecting strains using PCR based on the ITS 2 gene and 5.8 s rDNA. RAPD primers and AFLPs were used to explore variability among metalaxyl-resistant isolates and different pathotypes of P. sorghi and the analysis indicated that the metalaxyl resistance evolved in pathotype 3 and a new pathotype developed in Texas (Perumal et al., 2006). Simple sequence repeats (SSRs) have been developed for the graminaceous downy mildews (Perumal et al., 2008). These allow differentiation of P. sorghi from other species and have potential to be used to identify metalaxyl resistance and pathotype in P. sorghi.

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
Af - Tropical rainforest climate Preferred > 60mm precipitation per month
Am - Tropical monsoon climate Preferred Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))
As - Tropical savanna climate with dry summer Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
B - Dry (arid and semi-arid) Preferred < 860mm precipitation annually
Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Tolerated Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
44 44

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Pseudomonas fluorescens Pathogen Kamalakannan and Shanmugam, 2009
Rhizidiomycopsis japonicus Pathogen Diaz and Polanco, 1984

Notes on Natural Enemies

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A chytrid fungus (a Gaertneriomyces sp. [formerly Phylctochytrium sp.) was observed parasitizing oospores of P. sorghi (Kenneth, 1982). Kunene et al. (1990) found it to be effective at reducing disease due to soil-borne oospores by up to 58%. Other parasites have been identified (Diaz and Polanco, 1984; Lakshmanan et al., 1990).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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The transfer of P. sorghi from the Old World to the New World has not been documented by individual events, although the approximate time line of its arrival (late 1950s) (Toler et al., 1959; Frederiksen et al., 1970) and spread within the Americas is known (late 1950s to the present) (Reyes et al., 1964; Frederiksen et al., 1970). It is most likely to have arrived through the transport and trade of maize and sorghum seeds and/or plants (Reyes et al., 1964). Strict quarantine measures in the USA (Frederiksen, 1980a) probably kept P. sorghi (and other graminaceous downy mildews) out of the country for many decades. Strict quarantine regulations in Australia have kept P. sorghi out of that continent (Wang et al., 2000).

Seedborne Aspects

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As oospores: Oospores can be directly associated with the surface of seed (Bain and Alford, 1969). Oospore-infested trash (glumes etc) associated with sorghum seed can lead to systemic infection in seedlings (Frederiksen et al., 1973; Ahmed and Majumder, 1987). There are reports that oospores can be found in the pericarp of sorghum seed, as well as in the glumes (Kaveriappa and Safeeulla, 1978) and perhaps also in the embryo and endosperm of maize and sorghum (Rao et al., 1984; Uphadhyay, 1987). Other studies confirmed oospores of P. sorghi in sorghum glumes (Prabhu et al., 1984). Oospores of the maize-infecting strain of P. sorghi in Nigeria were found in kernels of maize (Adenle and Cardwell, 2000).

As mycelium: The pathogen has been detected growing within the style, ovary wall nucellus and pericarp of carpellate flowers (Jones et al., 1972; Rao et al., 1984) and scutellum (Rao et al., 1984) of maize seeds. The pathogen can become established in the seeds, either directly from the mother plant or by conidial infection through the stigma, style or ovary (Prabhu et al., 1983). Mycelia of the pathogen in sorghum were detected in the inflorescence axis, ovary wall, anther wall and endosperm of the sorghum seed (Kaveriappa and Safeeulla, 1978; Upadhyay, 1987). Infected anthers contained sunken pollen grains. With the maize-infecting strain of P. sorghi in Nigeria, seeds harvested from maize plants inoculated with P. sorghi through silks had hyphae of P. sorghi in the scutellum of the embryo (Adenle and Cardwell, 2000).

Incidence

Mycelium was detected in the pericarp of 16-100% of seeds, and in the embryo of 1-15% of seed; oospores were found in 1-35% of pericarps and 1-12% of embryos of maize (Rao et al., 1985). Mycelium has been found in the pericarp of 40%, and in the endosperm of 5%, of sorghum seeds from systemically infected plants (Prabhu et al., 1984). Infection through the stigma after inoculation was observed in the pericarp and aleurone layer in ca. 30% of the seeds, and in the embryonic tissue of ca. 0.5% of seeds (Prabhu et al., 1983).

Effect on Seed Quality

No direct adverse effects on seed quality have been reported, but systemically infected plants generally produce few or no seed due to sterility (Frederiksen, 1980a).

Pathogen Transmission

Evidence exists for both mycelial and oospore-mediated transmission in both maize and sorghum (Jones et al., 1972; Rao et al., 1984). In experiments on sorghum, up to 80% of seedlings showed systemic infection when sown in sterile soil with oospore-infested glumes from systemically infected plants (the incidence was 1-4% in seeds sown without the glumes, probably due to the elimination of oospores (Rao et al., 1984). With the maize-infecting strain in southern Nigeria, seed transmission was demonstrated using grain purchased at local markets, which gave a mean seedling infection rates of 12.3% (Adenle and Cardwell, 2000). The potential role of seed transmission of P. sorghi in dried seed was also demonstrated by detection of P. sorghi using dot-blot hybridization of a DNA probe with a DNA extract from sorghum seeds (Yao et al., 1990).

Seed Treatment

The survival of the pathogen in sorghum or maize seed dried down to <20% moisture may reduce or avoid seed transmission, particularly that associated with mycelium (Jones et al., 1972; Frederiksen, 1980b; Shetty, 1985) and oospores may not remain viable in properly sun-dried seeds (Kaveriappa and Safeeulla, 1978). However, Adenle and Cardwell (2000) did not observe an effect of moisture content on seed transmission of the maize-infecting strain of P. sorghi in Nigeria.

Metalaxyl is highly effective as a seed treatment against P. sorghi in maize and sorghum. It was shown to be effective against systemic infection both as a seed treatment (Venugopal and Safeeulla, 1978; Anahosur and Patil, 1980; Odvody and Frederiksen, 1984a; Bock et al., 2000a) and foliar spray (Anahosur and Patil, 1983, Odvody and Frederiksen, 1984b; Bock et al., 2000a) for both crops. A seed treatment followed by a series of foliar sprays completely controls the disease. However, outbreaks of sorghum downy mildew in Texas in 2001 and 2002 were traced to the existence of metalaxyl resistance (Isakeit et al., 2003) suggesting that it might not be as useful for controlling the disease in the future.

Metalaxyl is effective in controlling the maize-infecting strain of P. sorghi in southern Nigeria. Plants grown from seeds treated with metalaxyl  remained free from the disease and had significantly higher grain yield compared to plants grown from non-treated seed (Anaso et al., 1989b, Bock et al., 2000a).

Use of the herbicide safener, Concep II, on sorghum as a seed treatment increased the incidence of downy mildew in susceptible grain sorghum hybrids in Texas (Szerszen et al., 1988). SEM revealed that Concep II affected sorghum root growth and development. Seed treatment with metalaxyl completely controlled the negative effect of Concep II, but the effectiveness of metalaxyl in controlling sorghum downy mildew is reduced if higher rates of Concep II are used (Szerszen et al., 1988).

Seed Health Tests

There are different ways to test sorghum and maize seed health. Visual inspection of seed components (embryos, pericarp, etc.) after staining and fixing samples followed by microscopic examination allows observation of stained mycelium and oospores of P. sorghi, if present (Rao et al., 1985). A wash test developed by Shaarawy et al. (2002) included grinding and washing samples followed by centrifugation and staining of the pellet to allow observation of oospores and mycelia in different seed or tissue fractions.

The pathogen can be grown out from a seed sample suspected of harbouring inoculum of P. sorghi (Adenle and Cardwell, 2000). Seedlings showing infection within 7 days of emergence confirm the presence of P. sorghi.

P. sorghi can be detected in seeds using a DNA probe and dot-blot hybridization with a DNA extract from suspect sorghum seeds (Yao et al., 1990). A further A–T rich DNA clone was developed for detection of DNA of P. sorghi extracted either directly from the pathogen or from host material (Yao et al., 1991a). A DNA sequence characterized amplified region (SCAR) marker has been developed for identification of P. sorghi (sorghum/maize strain) that infect maize (Ladhalakshmi et al., 2009). Only the isolates from maize produce an amplicon of 800 bp with the SCAR primer.

Plant Trade

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Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transportPest stagesBorne internallyBorne externallyVisibility of pest or symptoms
Growing medium accompanying plants hyphae; spores Yes Yes Pest or symptoms not visible to the naked eye but usually visible under light microscope
Leaves hyphae; spores Yes Yes Pest or symptoms not visible to the naked eye but usually visible under light microscope
True seeds (inc. grain) hyphae; spores Yes Yes Pest or symptoms not visible to the naked eye but usually visible under light microscope
Plant parts not known to carry the pest in trade/transport
Bark
Bulbs/Tubers/Corms/Rhizomes
Fruits (inc. pods)
Roots
Wood

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Economic/livelihood Negative

Impact

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Sorghum downy mildew is an economically important disease of sorghum and maize in the tropics and subtropics, notably in Africa (Fajemisin, 1980; Hulluka and Esele, 1992; Milliano, 1992), South America (Teyssandier, 1992), Central America (Wall and Meckenstock, 1992), North America (Frederiksen and Duncan, 1992) and India (Anahosur, 1992). Severe outbreaks occurred in India, Mexico, Israel and Texas, USA, in the 1960s (Frederiksen et al., 1973; Kenneth, 1975; Payak, 1975a, b) and in Venezuela in the 1970s (Frederiksen and Renfro, 1977).

The economic impact can be substantial as systemically infected plants are generally sterile. This is demonstrated by the epidemics of sorghum downy mildew in Venezuela in the early 1970s, which resulted in the epidemic being declared a national emergency (El Nacional, Venezuela, August 2, 1975, in Frederiksen and Renfro, 1977). Losses of US$ 2.5 million were caused in the coastal counties of Texas, with incidence in individual fields reaching 90% (Frederiksen et al., 1969). In India, Payak (1975a) reported losses of 100,000 metric tons.

Field experiments in Texas and elsewhere demonstrated that the impact of sorghum downy mildew on yield loss of sorghum was linear (Frederiksen et al., 1973; Tuleen and Frederiksen, 1981; Craig et al., 1989; Wall et al., 1992). High host population density can result in a beneficial effect of a low incidence of systemic infection due to the effect of plant removal in reducing plant density and moisture stress (Frederiksen et al., 1973; Tuleen and Frederiksen, 1981). However, the beneficial effects of the control of sorghum downy mildew confirm the impact of systemic sorghum downy mildew on yield of sorghum and maize (Anahosur and Patil, 1980, Anaso et al., 1989a, b; Odvody and Frederiksen, 1984 a, b). Although local lesions probably have little or no impact on yield, they are important as a source of inoculum and thus cannot be considered insignificant (Cohen and Sherman, 1977).

In the southern humid zone of Nigeria where the maize-infecting strain of P. sorghi is endemic, yield loss is substantial (Anaso et al., 1989a). In 1992, it was estimated to be 11.7%, although individual fields had up to 95% incidence of systemically infected plants (Bock et al., 1998b). The disease affected 10,000 ha of maize in 1991, destroying an estimated 15,000 metric tons (Daily Sketch, Nigeria, June 19, 1991 in Bock, 1995).

 

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Invasive in its native range
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Fast growing
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
  • Reproduces asexually
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
  • Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant
  • Difficult/costly to control

Diagnosis

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Sorghum downy mildew on sorghum can be diagnosed on the basis of symptoms. However, on maize, several downy mildews cause similar symptoms (Williams, 1984) thus there may be a need to confirm the causal species of downy mildew. Inoculating sorghum seedlings with the spores and obtaining systemic infections will confirm that the pathogen is the sorghum/maize strain of P. sorghi (except with the maize strain in Nigeria (Anaso et al., 1989a).

Microscopic examination of the asexual and sexual spores will confirm the identity of the pathogen.

Molecular methods of diagnosis for P. sorghi and for isolates that infect maize (sorghum/maize pathotype) are described in Seed Health Tests.

Detection and Inspection

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The disease can be detected on sorghum, maize and wild hosts by looking for the symptoms of systemic infection (Williams, 1984). Systemic infection in sorghum and maize seedlings is characterized by chlorosis which normally appears 2 weeks after sowing. Symptoms are first observed at the base of the leaves which appear yellowish. With sequentially produced leaves, eventually, the entire leaf blade is chlorotic (Francis and Williams, 1983; Williams, 1984). The leaves of infected plants tend to be narrower and more erect than those of healthy plants. Infected plants are sometimes stunted. Characteristic streaks of alternating chlorotic and green tissue, which run the length of the leaf, appear later, particularly in sorghum. The upper leaves of systemically infected sorghum plants shred and release oospores.

A white, downy growth may appear on both surfaces of infected leaves and, in some regions, phyllodied tassels have been observed on maize. Sorghum plants are generally sterile. There are reports that the pith of maize plants can show a mottled, brown discoloration, with excessive brace root formation, and the typical abnormal tallness, barrenness and twisted, elongated ear shanks  (Warren et al., 1974).

Methods to detect the pathogen as mycelia or oospores in seed is described in Seed Health Tests.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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Although no other graminaceous downy mildew infects sorghum, several infect maize (Peronosclerospora maydis, P. philippinensis, P. sacchari, P. zeae; Scleropthora rayssiae var. zeae, Sclerophthora macrospora and Sclerospora graminicola) (Williams, 1984). Symptoms on maize can be superficially similar, but microscopic examination and measurement of the conidia and conidiophores allow ready differentiation of the causal pathogen. 

Prevention and Control

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Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.

There are several methods that can be applied to manage and control sorghum downy mildew on sorghum and maize, resulting in an integrated approach being used in many locations (Odvody et al., 1983).

Cultural Control and Sanitary Methods

Growing non-host or host crops (for example, oat, barley, flax, Sorghum sudanense or cowpea) for 15 days, and maize for 17 days reduced the inoculum potential in soils infested with oospores suggesting short-term crop rotations may be beneficial (Tuleen et al., 1980). The incidence of systemic infection in sorghum crops in soil prior to treatment was 42.2%, and after growth of the most effective bait crop (Linum usitatissimum) fell to as little as 4.2%. Deep-ploughing of infested plant residues with a mouldboard plough also reduced the incidence of systemic infection, and in Texas, delayed planting until April reduced the incidence of systemic infection where soil-borne oospores are often the most important source of inoculum (Tuleen et al., 1980). Similarly, in other areas (or seasons) where oospores are the main source of inoculum planting date may not be important, including in Zimbabwe (Bock and Jeger, 1999) and Uganda (Adipala et al., 1999). However, where weather conditions are conducive to rapid build-up and dispersal of asexual inoculum, early planting can be beneficial in assuring a low incidence of disease. Conditions leading to a higher incidence of disease on later planted sorghum and maize crops have been reported in Israel (Cohen and Sherman, 1977), India (Balasubramanian, 1974; Rajasab et al., 1980) and Nigeria where the maize-infecting strain of P. sorghi occurs (Anaso, 1989a, b). Rouging of diseased plants will eventually reduce the oospore load in the soil, but this is labour intensive and takes several years to reduce the incidence of disease in the crop (Janke et al., 1983). Another approach that might be useful is the drying or storing of infected seeds to prevent seed transmission of the pathogen (Jones et al., 1972).

Host-Plant Resistance

Host-plant resistance has been a very effective method to control sorghum downy mildew on both crops (Frederiksen and Renfro, 1977). Numerous resistant lines have been identified for both sorghum (Miller et al., 1992) and maize (Issa et al., 1977; Sreeramasetty et al., 2001) and reports of screening sorghum and maize germplasm abound (Craig et al., 1977; Schmitt and Freytag, 1977; Kumar et al., 1979; Anahosur and Hegde, 1979Henzell et al., 1982; Williams et al., 1982; Milliano et al., 1988, 1991; Anaso et al., 1989c; Shivanna and Anahosur, 1990; Kamala et al., 2006; Prom et al., 2007; Rajan Sharma et al., 2010; Zerka Rashid et al., 2013).

An International Sorghum Downy Mildew Nursery (ISDMN) and the International Maize Downy Mildew Nursery (IMDMN) were established in 1969 (Renfro, 1976). These nurseries and the scientist who were involved with the research confirmed the existence of pathotypes of sorghum downy mildew on sorghum (Craig and Frederikesen, 1983) but not on maize (Frederiksen and Renfro, 1977). Maize is strongly outcrossing, and resistant lines tend to show a low incidence of sorghum downy mildew (Williams, 1984). Sorghum, although a self-pollinated species can be induced to cross pollinate and thus lines with genetic uniformity and complete resistance to sorghum downy mildew can be achieved (Frederiksen et al., 1973). Varieties of both crops resistant to sorghum downy mildew have been released as a result of these efforts.

Various studies have begun to characterise the inheritance of resistance in maize (Frederiksen et al., 1973; Mochizuki, 1975Craig, 1982; Singburaudom and Renfro, 1982; Borges, 1987; Ajala et al., 2003; Yen et al., 2004; Nair et al., 2005) and sorghum (Miller, 1966; Rana et al., 1982Gimenes-Fernandes and Pena, 1986; Sifuentes and Frederiksen, 1988). Apart from traditional breeding, more recently molecular methods have been used to assist the breeding process and understand the genetics of resistance (Gowda et al., 1994; Rosenow, 1994Bhavanishankara et al., 1995) including the use of Quantitative Trait Loci (QTLs) in maize (Agrama et al., 1999, 2002; Sabry et al., 2006) and sorghum (Nair et al., 2005). Several genes (both major and minor genes) have been detected that appear to control resistance to the disease in maize and sorghum.

In support of resistance breeding, a range of inoculation techniques have been developed by pathologists to include the use of oospores and conidia. Oospore-infected soils (Craig, 1980) and infector rows for asexual inoculum (Ahahosur and Hegde, 1979; Cardwell et al., 1997) have been used effectively to screen maize and sorghum. Direct inoculation of seed for spreader rows is very effective at ensuring early and uniform inoculum (Cardwell et al., 1997). Some sites used a combination of spreader rows and oospore infestation of soils (Milliano, 1992). There are contradictory reports that some maize varieties may differ in response to inoculation with conidia or oospores (Frederiksen et al., 1973Frederiksen and Renfro, 1977; Schmitt and Freytag, 1977; Craig, 1980; Williams, 1984). Once inoculated, the germplasm is assessed for disease and this is usually done by counting the incidence of systemic infection on at least two occasions during the season (Williams, 1984). Local lesions have also been scored, most often using a 1-4 or 1-5 scale (Shenoi and Ramalingham, 1976; Frederiksen, 1980a). Experimental work with comparing resistant and susceptible varieties in tissue culture has been contradictory, and has not been pursued (Mauch-Mani et al., 1989; Gowda and Bhat, 1992). A greenhouse method to assess sorghum for resistance to downy mildew was also developed (Narayana et al., 1995).

Induction of systemically acquired resistance (SAR) has been demonstrated in maize against downy mildew. Application of benzo(1,2,3)thiadiazole-7-carbothioic acid S-methyl ester (BTH) to seedlings resulted in reduced incidence of systemic disease (Morris et al., 1998) and application of phosponic acid also reduced systemic infection and increased yield (Panicker and Gangadharan, 1999). Although tested against the downy mildew in Thailand (P. zeae, not P. sorghi (Yao et al., 1991a, b)), the response will probably be similar against sorghum downy mildew.

Biological Control

A chytrid fungus (Gaertneriomyces sp.) was identified parasitizing oospores of P. sorghi (Kenneth, 1982). The chytrid fungus caused a reduction in the incidence of systemic sorghum downy mildew by up to 58% by parasitizing the soil-inhabiting oospores (Kunene et al., 1990). Other potential microbial biocontrol agents have been identified, but no experiments have been done to confirm their efficacy (Diaz and Polcanco, 1984; Laksmanan et al., 1990a; Kamalakannan and Shanmugam, 2009). Leaf extracts of Prosopis chilensis and Azadirachta indica have also shown to have some efficiacy (Kamalakannan and Shanmugam, 2009).

Chemical Control

The fungicide metalaxyl (Schwinn, 1980) is efficiaceous in reducing the incidence of systemic sorghum downy mildew when applied as a seed dressing  against P. sorghi in maize and sorghum (Venugopal and Safeeulla, 1978; Anahosur and Patil, 1980; Odvody and Frederiksen, 1984a; Bock et al., 2000a). It is also effective as a foliar spray (Anahosur and Patil, 1983; Odvody and Frederiksen, 1984b; Bock et al., 2000a) where a seed treatment followed by two foliar sprays at 10 and 40 days after emergence completely controls the disease. Although seed treatment alone will significantly reduce the disease, the foliar sprays are needed to prevent late systemic infections from occurring. Foliar application will also prevent local lesions from developing on sorghum foliage.

Metalaxyl should be applied with some caution as high rates can reduce stands of maize and sorghum (Odvody and Frederiksen, 1984b). Some locations in the USA now have populations of P. sorghi that are metalaxyl-resistant (Isakeit et al., 2003). The development of metalaxyl resistance is thought to be due to (1) use of low seed treatment rates of metalaxyl, (2) continued planting of pathotype 3-susceptible sorghum hybrids, (3) increased monoculture of grain sorghum, and (4) seed treatments with Concep III herbicide seed safeners (which can damage the plant and increase susceptibility to P. sorghi). If the metalaxyl resistance spreads more widely through the P. sorghi population it will make control of this disease more difficult. Alternatives, such as SAR agents including phosphonic acid (Panicker and Gangadharan, 1999) may be useful in managing the disease where metalaxyl resistance is a problem.  

Metalaxyl was demonstrated to be effective in controlling the maize-infecting strain of P. sorghi in southern Nigeria (Anaso et al., 1989b, Bock et al., 2000a).

Integrated Control

The applicability of integrated control for the management of sorghum downy mildew was reviewed and the approach recommended by Odvody et al. (1983). The combination of control measures can be beneficial, for example, the use of a resistant variety combined with a fungicide seed treatment should extend the life of the host resistance and reduce the risk of the pathogen developing resistance to the pesticide (Odvody and Frederiksen, 1984a). The full extent to which these management practices are adopted in a combined fashion by farmers in the USA, South/Central America, India or Africa is unknown.

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Organizations

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Nigeria: International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), PMB 5320, Ibadan, Oyo State, http://www.iita.org/

India: International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Patancheru 502324, Andhra Pradesh, http://www.icrisat.org/

Mexico: International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Apdo. Postal 6-641 06600 Mexico, DF, http://www.cimmyt.org

USA: Texas A&M University, Corpus Cristi, 10345 State Hwy 44, TX 78406-1412, http://ccag.tamu.edu

Contributors

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03/06/13 Review by:

Clive H. Bock,  USDA-ARS-SEFTNRL, 21 Dunbar Rd., Byron, GA 31008, USA

Distribution Maps

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