CALLING ALL GARDENERS: When she set up the Google Doc seeking help monitoring outbreaks around the nation of Basil Downy Mildew, a devasting disease of the popular herb, plant pathologist Dr. Meg McGrath of Cornell thought it would be Extension people who filed outbreak reports. In fact, it’s been gardeners for the most part who are lending their watchful eyes—and furthering Meg’s research in the process.
“Their reports have helped me a lot in my work to understand where this disease is occurring, and what conditions are most favorable,” she says. “But we scientists always want more information! I am especially interested to hear from gardeners in states where I have gotten few or no reports.”
So gardeners: Is your basil in trouble? The tipoff: The plants look pekid, the tops of its leaves marked with diffuse yellow (top photo, as infection begins), as if hungry for fertilizer, but then going brown. Turning them over reveals distinctive vein-bounded brown or fuzzy gray patches (starting in photo below). The decline continues; leaves drop.
Plant pathologists including Meg, plants breeders and other experts like the ones in this story are part of the collaboration of scientists working to identify, understand and hopefully outsmart plant diseases like Basil Downy Mildew, in turn helping gardeners and farmers succeed. Now we can lend a hand—specifically with Basil Downy Mildew.
- What Basil Downy Mildew looks like in more detail.
- Here’s where to file your findings, on Meg’s Google Doc.
- My spring 2015 story on Basil Downy Mildew, for all the details.
- Map of Basil Downy Mildew outbreaks since 2009.
- My podcast and Q&A with Meg McGrath on tomato troubles–including Late Blight, a cousin of Basil Downy Mildew.
(Photos from Dr. Meg McGrath of Cornell.)