A personal computer-based method was compared with standard visual assessment for quantifying colonization of sweet cherry (Prunus avium L.) leaves by powdery mildew (PM) caused by Podosphaera clandestina (Wallr.:Fr.) Lev. Leaf disks from 14 cultivars were rated for PM severity (percentage of leaf area colonized) by three methods: 1) visual assessment; 2) digital image analysis; and 3) digital image analysis after painting PM colonies on the leaf disk. The third technique, in which PM colonies on each leaf disk were observed using a dissecting microscope and subsequently covered with white enamel paint, provided a standard for comparison of the first two methods. A digital image file for each leaf disk was created using a digital flatbed scanner. Image analysis was performed with a commercially available software package, which did not adequately detect slight differences in color between PM and sweet cherry leaf tissue. Consequently, two replicated experiments revealed a low correlation between PM image analysis and painted PM image analysis (r2 = 0.66 and 0.46, P ≤ 0.0001), whereas visual assessment was highly correlated with painted PM image analysis (r2 = 0.88 and 0.95, P ≤ 0.0001). Rank orders of the 14 cultivars differed significantly (P ≤ 0.05) when PM image analysis and painted PM image analysis were compared; however, rankings by visual assessment were not significantly different (P > 0.05) from those by painted PM image analysis. Thus, standard visual assessment is an accurate method for estimating disease severity in a leaf disk resistance assay for sweet cherry PM.
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