Spinach Downy Mildew

Peronospora farinosa, a fungus

Also known as Blue Mold

Spinach downy mildew [Credit: Cesar Calderon, USDA APHIS PPQ]
Spinach downy mildew [Credit: Cesar Calderon, USDA APHIS PPQ]

Host Plants:

On Crops: Spinach and a few closely related weeds

Where Found:

Worldwide, wherever spinach is grown, especially in cool climates


Also called blue mold, spinach downy mildew begins with light yellow patches on leaves that appear a day or two after cool, wet weather sets in. Beneath the spots, a furry gray mold develops that turns purplish-blue as spores form. The ideal scenario for spinach downy mildew goes like this: two days of cool rain with temperatures between 48-54F (9-12C), followed by continued fog or ground moisture with temperatures just above 60F (16C). A prolonged period of damp weather is needed to trigger an outbreak of spinach downy mildew.


Spinach leaves with black patches and mold are not appealing to eat. Sometimes the inner leaves of infected plants escape damage.

Preventing Problems:

Choose resistant varieties, which are widely available. However, new races of this fungus are able to overcome resistance, so be sure to plan ahead for fast drying of spinach foliage after rains. Make sure plants get good air circulation and plenty of sun, and keep weeds controlled to promote prompt drying. Rotate spinach to a fresh site to prevent disease buildup, and use mulch to keep soil from splashing onto plants during heavy rains. Avoid using sprinklers or other overhead irrigation methods after spinach plants have grown large and leafy.

Managing Outbreaks:

Clip off and compost affected leaves, and then spray plants with 1 teaspoon baking soda mixed with one quart of water. Spinach downy mildew usually disappears if the weather become warm and dry.

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