For more than three decades, basil has been a primary focus of [Dr. Jim Simon’s] research. At Rutgers, he oversees one of the world’s most extensive collections of basil from all over the world, more than 100 types. Most recently, he and his colleagues have been focused on developing sweet basil that’s resistant to downy mildew, which has devastated commercial production since 2010. First identified in Florida and possibly introduced via contaminated seeds, the disease looks like gray-black soot between the veins on the underside of the leaves, and causes them to yellow.
Simon’s research team, which includes Andy Wyenandt, an associate extension specialist in vegetable pathology at the Rutgers Agricultural Research and Extension Center near Bridgeton, has developed four varieties of downy mildew resistant (DMR) basil: Rutgers Obsession DMR, Rutgers Devotion DRM, Rutgers Passion DMR, and Rutgers Thunderstruck DMR. “This will be the second full season that these types will be available. It’s a Jersey-created line, created with the participation of Jersey growers,” says Simon. “All was done using traditional but innovative plant breeding—none are GMO. And there are now organically certified lines available.” Seeds are available from https://www.vdfspecialtyseeds.com/.