Powdery mildew (PM) occurs worldwide and is prevalent on susceptible cultivars wherever pears are grown, causing economic losses due to russeted fruit and an increased need for fungicides. A core subset of the Pyrus germplasm collection at the USDA National Clonal Germplasm Repository in Corvallis, Ore., was evaluated for resistance to Podosphaera leucotricha, the causal agent of PM, using greenhouse and field inoculations of potted trees. The core collection consists of about 200 cultivars and species selections, representing most of the genetic diversity of pears and includes 31 Asian cultivars (ASN), 122 European cultivars (EUR), 9 EUR × ASN hybrids and 46 pear species selections. Three trees of each core accession were grafted on seedling rootstocks. In 2001–02, trees were artificially inoculated in a greenhouse, grown under conditions conducive for PM, and evaluated for symptoms. The same trees were subsequently evaluated for PM symptoms from natural field infections during 2003 and 2004. In the greenhouse, 95% of EUR and 38% of ASN were infected with PM. Average PM incidence (percent of leaves infected) in the greenhouse (8% for ASN and 30% for EUR) was much higher than incidence in the field (2% for ASN and 5% for EUR) during 2003. Symptoms were also more severe in the greenhouse, with 46% of ASN and 83% of EUR with PM symptoms having a mean PM incidence of >10%. In the field, 42% and 22% of EUR and 23% and 13% of ASN were infected with P. leucotricha in 2003 and 2004, respectively. Field infection was very low during both years, with percentage leaves infected in ASN and species selections significantly different from EUR. In the field, 6% of ASN with PM symptoms had a mean PM incidence >10% during both years, while 15% and 2% of EUR accessions with PM symptoms had a mean PM incidence >10% in 2003 and 2004 respectively. These results should be very useful to pear breeding programs to develop improved PM resistant cultivars in the future, by using accessions with consistent low PM ratings.
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