A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay using a set of specific primers and a dual-labeled probe (TaqMan) was developed to quantify the amount of Aphanomyces euteiches DNA in alfalfa plants exhibiting varying levels of disease severity. The study included isolates of race 1 and race 2 of A. euteiches. The assay also discriminated between alfalfa populations for resistance based on analysis of DNA extracted from bulked plant samples. Analysis of individual plants and bulked plant samples of standard check populations with both pathogen isolates resulted in Spearman rank correlations between pathogen DNA content and disease severity index ratings that were greater than 0.75 and highly significant (P < 0.0005). In experiments with a race 1 isolate, the amount of pathogen DNA present in the resistant check WAPH-1 was significantly less than in the susceptible check Saranac. In experiments with a race 2 isolate, the amount of pathogen DNA in the resistant check WAPH-5 was significantly less than in either of the susceptible checks, Saranac and WAPH-1. Discrimination between commercial cultivars based on quantitative PCR analysis of bulked plant samples was similar to classification based on visual assessment of disease severity.
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