Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal, a potential medicinal plant used for the treatment of nervous disorders, intestinal infection, leprosy, and cancer, is a perennial herb belonging to Solanaceae and distributed throughout the drier parts of India. Leaf blight disease of this plant generally occurs during March in various districts of South Bengal, India. At the initial stage of infection, symptoms appear as small, light brown spots, gradually becoming irregular, dark brown, concentrically zonate with a diffuse margin, frequently surrounded by light yellow haloes, conspicuous brownish concentric rings in the advance stage of infection. A species of Alternaria was isolated from the lesions. The pathogen was isolated on potato dextrose agar (PDA) media. On PDA, the fungus grew slowly with colonies reaching approximately 35 to 40 mm in diameter in 7 days when incubated at 30°C. Conidiophores arose singly or in groups, straight or flexous, cylindrical, septate, pale to olivaceous brown, as much as 155 μm long, 4 to 5.5 μm thick; conidia were straight, obclavate, pale olivaceous brown, smooth, with up to 15 transverse and rarely 1 or 2 longitudinal or oblique septa and measured 50 to 115 × 5 to 10 μm. Pathogenicity tests were carried out three times on 6-month-old plants (n = 10). Plants were sprayed with a conidial suspension of 105 conidia/ml; control plants were sprayed with sterilized water. Plants were covered with polyethylene bags for 10 days. Disease symptoms appeared after 12 ± 1 day after inoculation. Symptoms on the leaves were similar to those of a naturally occurring diseased plant. The fungal pathogen was consistently reisolated from inoculated plants. The pathogen was identified as Alternaria dianthicola and further confirmed by the Agharkar Research Institute, Pune, India. A literature survey reports the occurrence of some fungal diseases (1), but to our knowledge, this is the first report of A. dianthicola on W. somnifera.
References: (1) P. Sinha et al. Page 14 in: Recent Progress in Medicinal Plants. Vol. 6 Diseases and their Management. Sci Tech Publishing LLC, Houston, TX, 2000.