Pearl millet downy mildew research in India: progress and perspectives uri icon


  • Downy mildew (DM), caused by Sclerospora graminicola,continues to be a major biotic constraint to pearl millet(Pennisetum glaucum (L.) R. Br.) production in India.The disease which had remained incipient on locallandrace cultivars until the 1960s, became a serious threatto high-yielding, single-cross hybrids introduced intocultivation during the late 1960s. The first epiphytotics ofDM occurred during the crop season of 1971 on the firstpopular hybrid HB 3 and caused substantial yield loss(Nene and Singh 1976). With the establishment ofICRISAT in 1972, pathological research on pearl milletbegan in 1974 to address the major diseases: downymildew, ergot (Claviceps fusiformis), smut (Moesziomycespenicillariae) and rust (Puccinia substriata var indica). AConsultative Group meeting on downy mildew and ergotwas held in 1975 at ICRISAT-Patancheru to review thestatus of research and identify priorities. The group,consisting of renowned plant pathologists and plantbreeders from India and other countries, made severalrecommendations for downy mildew research relating tothe internal seedborne nature of the pathogen, its likelytransmission and methods to eliminate the pathogen fromthe seed; the relative roles of oospores, sporangia andseedborne inoculum in epidemiology; development ofscreening techniques; existence of physiologic races;multilocation evaluation of resistant lines to identify stable resistance; and development of chemical and culturalmethods to supplement the principal host-plant resistancemethod of disease control (ICRISAT 1975). Theserecommendations formed the basis for downy mildewresearch encompassing basic, strategic and applied aspects.These are still being followed in our ongoing Indian Councilof Agricultural Research (ICAR)-ICRISAT partnershipresearch

publication date

  • 2006