Plasmopara halstedii isolates showing an atypical reaction to metalaxyl were collected in France, in 1995 and 1996, and tested in the laboratory for their level of sensitivity to this fungicide. Primary and secondary infections caused by one of these isolates were not controlled by the metalaxyl concentration registered for seed treatment. The EC50 of this isolate was 12 800 mg a.i. kg−1 compared with 22 mg a.i. kg−1 for sensitive isolate, indicating a 582-fold decrease in sensitivity to the compound. There was no reduction in the agressiveness of the resistant isolate. Using other anti-oomycete fungicides, it appeared that propamocarb, contact fungicides (fluazinam, folpet, mancozeb) and the mixed formulations dimethomorph + mancozeb, cymoxanil + mancozeb and ofurace + folpet were effective against primary infections made with metalaxyl resistant and sensitive isolates, but not against secondary infections. Metalaxyl mixed with fluazinam, folpet or mancozeb was more effective against primary infections with the resistant isolate than metalaxyl alone. The EC50 of five other isolates ranged from 5 800 to 32 900 mg a.i. kg−1, indicating a variability in metalaxyl sensitivity of resistant sunflower downy mildew isolates. This is the first report of physiological resistance to metalaxyl in Plasmopara halstedii.