We paired genetically characterised isolates of U. necator under controlled conditions and raised the resultant cleistothecia to maturity. Progeny were recovered from cleistothecia formed in the glasshouse and growth room 97–110 days after cleistothecial initials were observed.
Cleistothecia collected from naturally infected leaves from vineyards in the Adelaide Plains and Langhorne Creek, South Australia, in March and April (autumn) 1998 and stored in the same vineyards, were induced to release ascospores in the laboratory between March 1998 and February 1999. This paper is the first report of cleistothecia of U. necator releasing ascospores during summer, autumn and winter in southern Australia. Cleistothecia did not require a period of over-wintering in order to release ascospores that infected detached grapevine leaves in vitro. Furthermore, cleistothecia that over-wintered in the field were triggered to release ascospores in the laboratory in spring. Release of ascospores in spring was coincident with observations of ascospore-derived infections in the Waite Campus vineyard, confirming that cleistothecia provide an additional source of primary inoculum for powdery mildew in South Australia. Autumn release of ascospores suggests the possibility that U. necator may complete two sexual generations per year in Mediterranean climates, with consequent increased risks of development of fungicide resistance and changes in pathogenicity.