That Time of Year Again: Basil Downy Mildew Visits NC

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Master Gardener volunteers inspecting basil plants.

Basil downy mildew test plot in Carteret County. Photo: Lora Fasolino

Basil downy mildew (BDM) has been confirmed in test plots maintained by Extension Master Gardener℠ volunteers in Haywood, Pender, Union, and Davidson counties. So far, it’s primarily shown up on the BDM-susceptible ‘Genovese’ variety.

BDM is a disease caused by Peronospora belbahrii, a fungal-like organism that reproduces by spores that are spread by the wind. It can decimate a basil crop quickly, leaving you without fresh basil for your favorite dishes.

Basil leaf with basil downy mildew symptoms.

Yellowing and browning of leaf tissue is an early sign of BDM infection. Photo: Sam Boring

Extension Master Gardener volunteers are helping with trials to compare five basil varieties bred to be BDM-resistant to the ever-popular yet BDM-susceptible ‘Genovese’ variety. The varieties in the trial are ‘Rutgers Obsession,’ ‘Rutgers Devotion,’ ‘Rutgers Thunderstruck,’ ‘Rutgers Passion,’ and ‘Prospera.’ Since June, Master Gardener volunteers have examined the plots weekly and rated the appearance of BDM symptoms on individual plants. Their work will help determine the best basil varieties to plant in NC. 

Extension Master Gardener volunteers will continue their research through September. Stay tuned as we will post more information later in the year on how the resistant varieties stood up to this disease and how they scored in taste tests. 

Think You Might Have BDM on Basil Plants in Your Garden? 

Extension agents and Master Gardener volunteers at your local N.C. Cooperative Extension center can help determine if the symptoms you are seeing are caused by BDM or another issue and what you can do about it. Use the Garden Help Directory to find contact information for the Extension center in your county. 

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