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Sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum L.) is among the most widely popular and economically important culinary herbs. Worldwide production of sweet basil has been threatened by a newly emerging disease, downy mildew (Peronospora belbahrii). Although tolerance and resistance have been identified in other Ocimum species, the traditional sweet basils all have been reported to be highly susceptible. There is an urgent need for evaluation of basil germplasm to identify sources of host resistance to P. belbahrii within Ocimum spp. and especially among O. basilicum species. In searching for genetic resistance, we developed a rapid approach to screen and evaluate downy mildew response at the cotyledon and true leaf growth stages under controlled environmental conditions. To confirm the reliability and reproducibility of this screening method, an experiment was conducted in which three basil species (Ocimum basilicum, sensitive; O. xcitriodorum, tolerant; and O. americanum, resistant to basil downy mildew) were evaluated for response to downy mildew inoculations at three growth stages. Disease incidence (DI) at the cotyledon growth stage was equal to or greater than true leaf growth stages for all species indicating that cotyledon response to downy mildew inoculations is a viable marker for predicting true leaf stage resistance. This approach was then used to screen 36 USDA-NPGS O. basilicum accessions at cotyledon and first true leaf growth stages to identify promising downy mildew-resistant breeding lines. Thirty accessions were susceptible at both growth stages (DI = 1.0). Four accessions exhibited little or no sporulation at either growth stage (DI less than 0.06), three of which showed other symptoms including chlorosis and necrosis. One accession, PI 652053, demonstrated no signs or symptoms but differed greatly from other accessions in regard to leaf morphology and habit. Results show that a resistant, mature plant can be identified at the cotyledon growth stage, providing a robust, low-input approach to identify promising downy mildew-resistant breeding material. Field evaluations of basils under high downy mildew pressure confirmed the applicability of this new screening approach to identify resistance to basil downy mildew.

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Downy mildew, caused by Peronospora belbahrii, is a new disease of basil (Ocimum spp.) in the United States. In 2009, different basil species, cultivars, and advanced breeding lines of sweet basil (30 in total) were evaluated for susceptibility to basil downy mildew in field trials in southern and northern New Jersey. Popular commercial sweet basil cultivars such as Martina, Nufar, and Poppy Joe were among the most susceptible to downy mildew. Symptoms and sporulation of P. belhahrii on Ocimum ×citriodorum and O. americanum cultivars were present but far less than on most O. basilicum cultivars evaluated. The cultivars Spice, Blue Spice, and Blue Spice Fil were the least susceptible to basil downy mildew with no visible symptoms. Similar results were observed in both field trials. This is the first report of potential resistance in Ocimum spp. to basil downy mildew. Observations from this study show that the development of resistant cultivars may be possible. Selection criteria such as foliar morphology, plant architecture as well as the presence of secondary metabolites are being examined as potential traits for developing downy mildew resistant basil cultivars.

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Sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum) is the most economically important culinary herb in the United States. In 2007, a new disease, basil downy mildew (BDM), caused by the oomycete pathogen Peronospora belbahrii, was introduced into the United States and has since caused significant losses in commercial basil production. Although no commercial sweet basils available are resistant to P. belbahrii, other species of Ocimum have exhibited potential tolerance, resistance, or both. The objectives of this work were to determine if leaf morphological characteristics including stomata density and leaf curvature correlated with infection of plants by P. belbahrii, and thus could be used as selected characters in plant breeding. In 2011, 20 Ocimum cultivars including sweet (O. basilicum), cinnamon (O. basilicum), clove (O. basilicum), citrus (Ocimum ×africanum syn. Ocimum citriodorum), spice (Ocimum americanum syn. Ocimum canum), and holy basils (Ocimum tenuiflorum syn. Ocimum sanctum) were evaluated for susceptibility to downy mildew. Sweet basils were determined to be the most susceptible; cinnamon, clove, and Thai types were moderately susceptible; and citrus, spice, and holy types were least susceptible to downy mildew. Using those same 20 Ocimum species and cultivars, stomata length and density and leaf curvature were measured and correlated with downy mildew incidence and severity. In general, basil species with higher stomatal densities had higher downy mildew incidence and severity. High stomatal densities were mainly found in the sweet, cinnamon, and clove basils. Citrus and spice species with longer stomatal lengths generally exhibited lower downy mildew incidence. Holy basil, the least susceptible of all Ocimum sp. to P. belbahrii evaluated in this study, had the greatest stomatal density and shortest stomatal length. Some sweet basil cultivars with the highest downy mildew incidence also had the greatest downward leaf curvature, whereas other sweet basil cultivars with moderate downy mildew incidence had leaves that were nearly flat or curved upward. Holy, citrus, and spice basils with low downy mildew incidence had leaves that were nearly flat or curved upward. This study suggests that leaf curvature and stomatal density and length affect downy mildew development and sporulation. Considerations of these leaf morphological characteristics may be useful phenotypic traits in breeding for downy mildew resistance in Ocimum.

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Fusarium wilt of basil (FOB), caused by Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. basilici, is an economically damaging disease of field- and greenhouse-grown sweet basil. Growers have observed a resurgence of FOB and susceptibility in FOB-resistant cultivars. Because currently available chemical, biological, and cultural control methods are costly, unsustainable, ineffective, or challenging to implement, new strategies of FOB control are needed. Cold plasma is becoming an increasingly important experimental technology in the food and agricultural industry for pathogen decontamination. To understand the effect of cold plasma treatment on FOB incidence and severity, experiments were conducted by treating FOB mycelium, inoculated sweet basil seedlings, and seeds with various experimental cold plasma treatment devices, all using helium as a feed gas. Initial results indicated that while the cold plasma jet treatment did not result in a significant reduction in mean mycelial growth rate or virulence of the pathogen, direct cold plasma jet treatments on seedlings, as well as a cold plasma dielectric barrier discharge treatment on seeds, did exhibit varying efficacies against FOB. Control of FOB appeared to be strongly dependent on the exposure time to cold plasma. These findings can aid in the standardization of a cold plasma treatment for the commercial basil seed and transplant industry.

Open Access

Different basils (Ocimum sp.) and cultivars (28 in 2009 and 32 in 2010) were evaluated for susceptibility to basil downy mildew (Peronospora belbahrii) at the Rutgers Agricultural Research and Extension Center near Bridgeton in southern New Jersey. At the end of each growing season, seed was collected from individual plants and stored for potential downy mildew pathogen detection using real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis. Most of the basil cultivars and breeding lines were showing symptoms of basil downy mildew infection at the time of seed collection before the first frost near the end of the production season. Symptoms of basil downy mildew were present on 25 of the 28 (89%) basil lines evaluated in 2009 and 26 of 32 (81%) basil lines tested in 2010 at the time of seed harvest, with sporulation evident on the abaxial surface of infected leaves. Real-time PCR analysis of seed collected from various infected plants detected P. belbahrii on seed of 14 of 25 (56%) basil lines tested in 2009 and 8 of 32 (25%) tested in 2010. Importantly, P. belbahrii was not only detected on seed of sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum) phenotypes but also on seed of ‘Spice’ basil (Ocimum americanum) in 2009 and ‘Sweet Dani Lemon Basil’ basil (Ocimum citriodorum), ‘Holy Red and Green’ basil [Ocimum tenuiflorum (form. sanctum)], ‘Lime’ basil (O. americanum), and again on ‘Spice’ basil in 2010 where no symptoms (i.e., no chlorosis or sporulation) were present on the leaves when seed were collected. This work demonstrates that basil seed, regardless of basil species and whether symptoms are visible on foliage of the basil plant or the plant is immune or resistant to downy mildew, can test positive for the presence of P. belbahrii using a real-time PCR assay following exposure of plants to the pathogen during the natural development of downy mildew under field conditions.

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Abstract

Carotenes from vegetables and fruits are vitamin A precursors that contribute about half of the vitamin A in the U.S. diet (3) and two-thirds of the world diet (5). Carrots typically contain 65 to 90 ppm carotenes (1) and are estimated to be the major source of carotene for U.S. consumers (3). Few pro-vitamin A sources surpass the carotene content of typical carrots, although red palm oil can contain >825 ppm carotenes (2). Genetic selection for higher carotene levels in carrots could increase the dietary consumption of carotene and consequently vitamin A. A high carotene mass carrot population was developed for use in breeding, genetic, and biochemical studies of carrot (Fig. 1).

Open Access