• induced resistance;
  • miniature potted roses;
  • Podosphaera pannosa;
  • powdery mildew;
  • silicon

Powdery mildew, caused by Podosphaera pannosa, is a very common disease in greenhouse potted roses, resulting in poor marketing value and hence economic losses. Alternatives to chemical control are necessary, and therefore the ability of silicon (Si) applied to roots to control the disease was investigated, as well as the mechanisms behind the observed disease reductions. Four genotypes of miniature potted roses representing different genetic backgrounds and susceptibility to disease were studied. Plants were watered with a nutrient solution containing either 3·6 mm Si (100 ppm) supplied as K2SiO3 (Si+) or no Si (Si−) before inoculation with P. pannosa. Si application increased leaf Si content two- to four-fold compared to control plants. Confocal microscopy showed that Si deposition was larger in Si+ than in Si− plants and that deposition mainly occurred in the apoplast, particularly in epidermal cell walls. Si application delayed the onset of disease symptoms by 1–2 days and disease severity was reduced by up to 48·9%. The largest reduction was found in the two most resistant genotypes, which also had the highest increase in Si uptake. The Si-induced disease protection was accompanied by increased formation of papillae and fluorescent epidermal cells (FEC) as well as deposition of callose and H2O2, especially at the sites of penetration and in FEC, which are believed to represent the hypersensitive response. Si treatment reduced powdery mildew development by inducing host defence responses and can therefore be used as an effective eco-friendly disease control measure.