Although downy mildew only affected Impatiens walleriana in parts of the Northeastern United States last year, its spread across much of Europe should serve as an indicator of what could come this spring or in the coming years here in the U.S.
“The downy mildew issue has been devastating in Europe,” says Mark Seguin, marketing manager at Sakata Seed America. “It’s really unprecedented as far as the market impact it’s had on Impatiens walleriana. Both growers and consumers are looking for a reliable alternative to fill that gap.”
Impatiens photographs Sakata shared of European trial gardens are cause for concern. Entire landscapes have been wiped out, and Sakata indicates these new downy mildew strains affect both seed- and cutting-raised plants. Many European retailers have announced they will no longer include seed impatiens in their assortment because of the rampant disease.
But while walleriana species are susceptible, a product like Sakata’s SunPatiens is proving to be unaffected by it.
“We trialed [SunPatiens] throughout Europe – Spain, France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, the U.K,” Seguin says. “We’ve had mass planting at all of our trials, and we have not seen any impact from downy mildew on our impatiens. They have shown to be extremely resistant – what we’re calling totally unaffected by these strains.”
Some growers may argue that seed impatiens are commodities and that a premium product like SunPatiens has a market of its own. Sakata, however, says because SunPatiens are fast growers and provide excellent coverage, fewer plants are needed per square foot than seed impatiens.
“For us, the key point is that in addition to the disease resistance SunPatiens offer, there are additional economical benefits that make it very worthwhile to choose SunPatiens.”
SunPatiens have largely been a hit in the U.S. the last few years because of their ability to flourish in extreme summer conditions. SunPatiens are just as capable of flourishing in the European sun as they are here in the U.S., but Europeans gravitate toward SunPatiens for a completely different reason.
“They are really responding to the all-weather performance in Europe,” Seguin says. “It’s very compelling to say SunPatiens thrive in the heat and sun in North America, and that’s enough for growers and consumers here to add this product. In Europe, that message has had less of an impact. The all-weather impatiens is more resounding, whereas typical New Guineas may not perform as well.”
So yes, U.S. growers have a potentially big problem on their hand in downy mildew on Impatiens walleriana. To Sakata, though, the disease’s spread is an opportunity to show what SunPatiens can do.
“This adds another dimension to the already growing interest in SunPatiens,” Seguin says. “For us, SunPatiens have seen dramatic growth in the last few years. This just adds another compelling reason for growers and consumers to put SunPatiens in their gardens.”
Learn more about Sakata and SunPatiens online at SunPatiens.com.