Can New Basil Varieties Stand up to Downy Mildew?
While demand for basil continues to grow worldwide, so does a major threat to the versatile herb. Downy mildew is a destructive pathogen that develops on lower leaf surfaces, often leading to complete crop loss for growers as what’s left is likely unmarketable and inedible. With that in mind, three herb industry stakeholders are seeking to introduce downy mildew-resistant basil varieties to the marketplace.
Jim Simon, a Professor of plant biology at Rutgers University; Charlie Coiner, an herb industry grower and marketer; and Ed Van Drunen, retired President at Van Drunen Farms in Momence, IL, have been leading the charge to achieve a commercially viable downy mildew-resistant variety through traditional plant breeding techniques.
“What we were aiming to develop is a plant that will sufficiently grow without concern during the growing and harvest season and as such we are talking about degrees of tolerance, not only resistance,” Simon stated.
The trio applied for a patent for the downy mildew-resistant varieties, and the seeds are now cleaned, tested, packaged, and commercially available through VDF Specialty Seeds.
Selection of the four lines being released were decided using a participatory approach with commercial basil farmers in the U.S. and European Union. “The lines chosen to commercialize are similar because they all go back to the cross that established the downy mildew resistance,” Coiner says. “Since then, the breeding has tried to select for some diversity for the people that grow basil. For example, greenhouse growers asked for a more cup-shaped leaf.”
Find out more details about the unique plant breeding project by reading the complete version of this article on GrowingProduce.com.