In November 2008, a wilt of lavender (Lavandula pubescens) seedlings was observed in the greenhouse at King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Affected seedlings were wilted and the root system was poorly developed. Diseased stems developed a dark coloration that extended down to the roots. Vascular tissue of the affected seedlings appeared red or brown. Isolations consistently yielded a fungus growing from the discolored stem tissue when placed on potato dextrose agar. The macroscopic characteristics of the colony, as well as microscopic structures, were used to identify the fungus as Fusarium oxysporum (2). Oval to elliptical microconidia without septa and originating from short phialides were used to distinguish the species from F. solani (1). The fungus was authenticated by the ITCC (Indian Type Collection Centre), Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi, India, and given I.D. No. 7532.09. For conducting further experiments, healthy seedlings of L. pubescens were obtained from the botanical garden of the King Saud University and grown in steam-sterilized soil. Healthy seedlings of lavender were inoculated using a root-dip method with a conidial suspension (1 × 107 CFU/ml) of one strain of F. oxysporum obtained from infected plants. Inoculated seedlings were then transplanted into steam-sterilized soil. Plants inoculated with sterilized water (1 ml per plant) served as control treatments. Wilt symptoms and vascular discoloration in the roots and crown developed within 20 days on all plants inoculated with the pathogen, while control plants remained asymptomatic. F. oxysporum was consistently reisolated from symptomatic plants. The pathogenicity test was conducted twice. To our knowledge, this is the first report of F. oxysporum on L. pubescens in Saudi Arabia or elsewhere in the world, and this newly identified disease may be a potential threat to commercial production of lavender.
References: (1) J. F. Leslie and B. A. Summerell. Page 212 in: The Fusarium Laboratory Manual. Blackwell Publishing Professional, Hoboken, NJ, 2006. (2) P. C. Nelson et al. Clin. Microbiol. Rev. 7:479, 1994.