During the 2005-2006 autumn to winter lettuce-growing (Lactuca sativa cv. Iceberg) season, severely stunted and yellowing lettuce plants with disease incidence ranging from 80 to100% were observed in four commercial, fall-sown fields at Almodóvar del Río (Córdoba Province) in southern Spain. Early symptoms consisted of severely reduced growth of the plants that continued with extensive leaf yellowing and the absence of tight-head formation. Attacks by the disease were estimated to cause near complete loss of the crop yields since the lettuce head produced in affected fields were unmarketable. Observations of affected lettuce plants revealed high parasitism of the root system by a root-knot nematode (Meloidogyne sp.) in the main and feeder roots as well as heavy soil infestations by the nematode. The nematode was identified by the female perineal pattern, esterases phenotype, and a sequence-characterized amplified region polymerase chain reaction (SCAR-PCR) technique (1,2,4). Measurements and morphological observations of 20 second-stage juveniles (J2s) (body length = 463 ± 28 μm, dorsal gland orifice from stylet base = 2.8 ± 0.6 μm, stylet length = 10.4 ± 0.5 μm, tail length = 54.4 ± 0.6 μm; hyaline tail terminus = 9.4 ± 0.6 μm) and 10 adult females (stylet length = 14.5 ± 0.7 μm, dorsal gland orifice from stylet base = 4.7 ± 0.5 μm, and perineal pattern with low and rounded dorsal arch with coarse striae) conformed to the description of Meloidogyne arenaria (3). On the basis of the characteristics of the perineal pattern, the 2-band esterase phenotype, and the 420-bp SCAR fragment, the causal agent was identified as the peanut root-knot nematode M. arenaria. Nematodes were extracted from soil and root samples by standard procedures and their populations quantified. M. arenaria was detected in nearly all soil and root samples assessed, with nematode population densities ranging from 206 to 1,072 eggs and J2s per 5 g of fresh roots. Different Meloidogyne spp. have been reported parasitizing lettuce roots, especially M. hapla in northern areas (2); however, to our knowledge this is the first time that M. arenaria is reported parasitizing lettuce roots in Spain and elsewhere.
References: (1) P. R. Esbenshade and A. C. Triantaphyllou. J. Nematol. 22:10, 1990. (2) N. A. Mitkowski et al. Plant Dis. 86:840, 2002. (3) K. J. Orton Williams. Meloidogyne arenaria. CIH Descriptions of Plant-Parasitic Nematodes. Set 5, No. 62. Commonwealth Institute of Helminthology, St. Albans, 1975. (4) C. Zijlstra et al. Nematology 2:847, 2000.