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, breeders and growers have been working on solutions to introduce downy mildew-resistant basil varieties to the marketplace.
Rutgers University and Van Drunen Farms Collaborate on New Varieties
According to a press release from Van Drunen Farms, 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 working 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 has 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.
Proven Winners Introduces Downy Resistant Basil Variety for 2019 Retail
Proven Winners gave visitors a first look at ‘Amazel’ basil during California Spring Trials 2018. ‘Amazel’ is a downy mildew resistant variety of Italian sweet basil that will be available to the retail market in 2019. It is a vegetative selection that remains in its vegetative state longer and sets sterile seed.
‘Amazel’ will continue to produce shoots and leaves even after flower initiation, instead of focusing most of its energy into seed production. Vigorous, large, well-branched plants produce higher yield and last all season because plants are later to flower. The more the plant is harvested, the better it grows.
Greenhouse Grower readers recently chose ‘Amazel’ basil as one of the finalists for the 2018 Readers’ Choice Medal of Excellence award. Learn more about this finalist on the Proven Winner’s website.