This is one of a group of fungi causing powdery mildews on a wide range of plants and is the most serious disease of gooseberries.
What is American gooseberry mildew?
American gooseberry mildew is a common disease most notably of gooseberries, caused by the fungus Podosphaera (syn. Sphaerotheca) mors-uvae.
From early summer, symptoms appear on gooseberry bushes as:
- Powdery grey-white fungal patches on the leaves, which later turn brown
- Mildew on the fruits turns brown as it ages
- Young shoots are stunted and twisted at the tops, and die back
- Tiny fruiting bodies (just visible as black dots) may develop within the mildew growth in late summer and autumn
In recent years this disease has frequently appeared late in the season on blackcurrant bushes. Treatment is as for gooseberries.
A number of measures will help reduce occurrence of the disease;
- Gooseberries are best pruned to an open form to aid picking. This also discourages stagnant air amongst the branches and promotes the circulation of air
- Avoid planting in low-lying or enclosed areas or with poor air flow
- Opening up bushes will also greatly ease picking and control of gooseberry sawfly
- Avoid excessive quantities of nitrogen rich manure, dried poultry manure pellets for example or mulching with manure, because the resulting soft growth is more readily attacked
- A dressing of a balanced fertiliser, such as Growmore, is more suitable – use 50g per sq m (1½oz per sq yd)
- The fungus overwinters within the buds and on the shoots, and (with blackcurrants in particular) on fallen leaves. It is therefore essential to ‘tip’ prune the bushes by removing and disposing of (bonfire or shredding and composting) the ends of affected shoots as soon as they are seen, as well as disposing of all fallen leaves in autumn
Eating affected fruit
The fungal growth on the berries can be rubbed off, and the gooseberries are edible, so there is no need to waste the crop if many of the fruits are affected. However, even after this laborious process the diseased berries will turn brown when cooked.
Organic gardeners, and gardeners who find spraying ineffective, can grow resistant cultivars which can offer a useful level of resistance to this disease:
'Greenfinch' AGM: Resistant
‘Hinnomaki Gold’: Slightly Resistant
‘Hinnomaki Red’: Resistant
‘Hinnomaki Green’: Resistant
'Invincta' AGM: Resistant (Although young plants of this variety show moderate attacks of mildew the shoots of mature plants and fruits are highly resistant)
‘Pax’: Slightly Resistant
‘Ben Alder’: Slightly Resistant
‘Ben Connan’ AGM: Resistant
‘Ben Gairn’: Resistant (Also resistant to reversion virus)
‘Ben Hope’: Resistant (Also resistant to gall mite)
‘Ben Lomond’ AGM: Slightly Resistant
‘Ben More’: Resistant
‘Ben Sarek’ AGM: Resistant
‘Ben Tirran’: Resistant
‘Big Ben’: Resistant
To source plants use: RHS Plant Finder
The fungicides myclobutanil (Systhane Fungus Fighter) can be used to control this disease and spraying should be carried out according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
A product containing a blend of plant and fish oils (Organic 2 in 1) is also available and can be used by organic gardeners. It acts by physical, rather than chemical, action.
Fungicides for gardeners (Adobe Acrobat pdf document outlining fungicides available to gardeners)
As its name suggests, this disease originated in North America, appearing in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century.
The vast majority of the growth of the fungus is present on the surface of the shoots or fruits, but it also penetrates into the cells immediately below, producing specialised feeding structures through which it obtains food from the plant.
Large numbers of microscopic spores are produced within the mildew growth; these are dispersed on air currents and in water splash. Unlike many fungal diseases, powdery mildews do not require extended periods of leaf wetness to infect the plant. The disease can therefore be a problem in relatively dry summers, although high humidity is required.
On gooseberry, the fungus overwinters within the buds and on the shoots. On blackcurrants, most of the infections in spring are thought to arise from another type of spore, released from fruiting bodies of the fungus present on fallen leaves at the base of the plant.