Downy mildew is a widespread, serious disease of grapevines. Initial leaf symptoms are light green to yellow spots, called “oil spots” because they appear greasy. Under humid conditions, white, downy spore masses can be seen on the lower leaf surface. These spores are wind dispersed. The lesions eventually turn brown as the infected tissue dies. Severely infected leaves drop prematurely, which can reduce winter hardiness of the vine. Infected flower clusters dry up or become covered with white spores under humid conditions. Infected berries turn a mottled dull green or reddish purple and readily fall from the cluster. Although berries become resistant to infection within 3 weeks after bloom, the rachis remains susceptible for several weeks longer.
The pathogen overwinters in infected leaves on the ground. In spring, spores are carried by rain splash to new leaves, where they require a film of water for infection. Lesions appear 5 to 17 days after infection. The disease can spread rapidly under warm conditions with frequent rain or dew. Use the 10-10-10 rule to decide when to start scouting for downy mildew: at least 10 cm (4 in.) of shoot growth, 10 mm (0.4 in.) rainfall and temperatures of 10 degrees Celsius (50 F) during a 24-hour period.
The MSU IPM Program maintains this site as an access point to pest management information at MSU. The IPM Program is administered within the Department of Entomology, fueled by research from the AgBioResearch, delivered to citizens through MSU Extension, and proud to be a part of Project GREEEN.