Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) is a perennial grass with significant potential as a biofuel crop. From 2007 to 2010, foliar lesions were observed in new and mature stands of switchgrass in various locations in New York. Lesions were elliptical with purple margins and white necrotic centers, generally <3 cm long, ~1 mm wide, often coalesced, and containing black setae. Upon incubation, symptomatic leaf tissue developed acervuli with masses of salmon-colored spores. The fungus was identified as Colletotrichum nativas Crouch on the basis of typical cultural characteristics and conidial morphology (1). Conidia were one-celled, hyaline, fusiform, and generally falcate. Conidial length averaged 40 μm (22 to 47 μm) and width averaged 5 μm (4 to 7 μm). Compared with other graminicolous species of Colletotrichum, the conidia were larger and varied from straight to irregularly bent. Sequences of the rDNA internal transcribed spacer (ITS) regions of three isolates (Cornell accession and corresponding GenBank Nos.: Cn071NY08 (from a >20-year-old naturalized stand of switchgrass in Steuben County), JF437053; Cn080NY08 (from ‘Pathfinder’ in Chemung County), JF437054; and Cn101NY09 (from ‘Blackwell’ in Chemung County), JF437055) exhibited 100% nucleotide identity to the type isolate of C. nativas (GenBank No. GQ919068) collected from switchgrass selection ‘Brooklyn’ in New Jersey (1). Pathogenicity of the sequenced isolates along with seven other isolates (Cn105NY09 from ‘Sunburst’ in Tompkins County; Cn107NY09 from ‘Trailblazer’ in Tompkins County; Cn109NY09 from ‘Forestburg’ in Tompkins County; Cn111NY09 and Cn112NY09 from ‘Shelter’ in Tompkins County; and Cn122NY09 and Cn123NY09 from ‘Cave-in-Rock’ in Genesee County) was evaluated in greenhouse experiments. Seven- to eight-week-old switchgrass plants were inoculated with conidial suspensions (1 × 106 conidia/ml) of C. nativas. Inoculum or sterilized water was sprayed until runoff. Three plants of each of ‘Cave-in-Rock’ and ‘Kanlow’ were sprayed per treatment and the experiment was repeated for 3 of the 10 isolates. Inoculated plants were placed in a mist chamber for 48 h before they were returned to the greenhouse and observed for disease development, which occurred within 1 week of inoculation for both cultivars. No symptoms developed on the control plants. Foliar lesions closely resembled those observed in the field. C. nativas was consistently reisolated from symptomatic tissue collected from greenhouse experiments. Switchgrass anthracnose associated with C. graminicola sensu lata has been reported in many U.S. states (2). On the basis of molecular phylogenetics and distinguishing morphological characters, Crouch et al. erected C. navitas as a novel species distinct from C. graminicola sensu stricto, a taxon restricted to the corn anthracnose pathogen (1). C. nativas was first documented on switchgrass in New Jersey (1) and appears to be the same pathogen causing anthracnose of switchgrass in the adjoining state of Pennsylvania (1,3). To our knowledge, this is the first report of C. nativas causing anthracnose of switchgrass in New York.
References: (1) J. A. Crouch et al. Mycol. Res. 113:1411, 2009. (2) D. F. Farr and A. Y. Rossman. Fungal Databases, Systematic Mycology and Microbiology Laboratory, ARS, USDA. Retrieved from http://nt.ars-grin.gov/fungaldatabases/, May 5, 2011. (3) M. A. Sanderson et al. Agron. J. 100:510, 2008.