Symphyotrichum novi-belgii (L.) G.L. Nesom (synonym Aster novi-belgii L.) is an autumn flowering perennial used in gardens and as a cut flower. During the last 20 years, it has been developed as a potted plant, thereby increasing its economic importance. In Denmark, 7 to 8 million S. novi-belgii plants are produced annually, making it one of the 10 most popular potted plant crops (http://floradania.dk/index.php?id=165). In general, S. novi-belgii is a healthy plant, but it can be severely attacked by powdery mildew both in greenhouse production and outdoors, and diseased plants have been observed in most parts of the country. Infected plants show typical symptoms: leaf surfaces become covered with white mycelium and as the disease progresses infected leaves turn yellow and die. Powdery mildew is regarded the main disease problem in S. novi-belgii and it causes problems year round in greenhouse production. Normally, the disease is controlled by fungicides, but once out of the production system, symptom development in the retail trade will reduce the plant's appeal to customers to a degree that prevents sales. The powdery mildew identified in this study was collected in a small research field at Aarslev, Denmark in September 2004. Since collection, the pathogen has been maintained in a greenhouse on S. novi-belgii and it has been used for disease resistance screening. However, lack of proper identification of the causal agent has hindered the development of powdery mildew resistant cultivars. To identify the pathogen, the internal transcribed spacer region (ITS) of the rDNA was amplified using primers ITS1 and ITS4 (2) and sequenced. The resulting sequence was deposited in GenBank (Accession No. HM769725). BLASTn analysis of the 598-bp fragment showed 99% identity to Golovinomyces cichoracearum (DC.) V.P. Heluta from Rudbeckia laciniata L. (Accession No. AB077622). The powdery mildew colonies were slightly pink with barrel-shaped, hyaline conidia borne in chains of three to four. The length of the conidia was 30 ± 4 μm and the width was 13 ± 1 μm (n = 105). Foot cells of the conidiophores were 101 ± 16 μm long and 12 ± 5 μm wide (n = 50) with a slight constriction at the base. Chasmothecia were not observed. These morphological characteristics confirmed the identification as G. cichoracearum (1). To fulfill Koch's postulates, 10 healthy S. novi-belgii ‘Victoria Fanny’ plants were inoculated in an inoculation tower by shaking infected S. novi-belgii plants over the tower, resulting in a spore density of 47 spores/mm2 on the leaf surface. The infected plants were placed in a growth chamber with 16 h of light (200 μmol·m–2·s–1) and day and night temperatures of 20 and 15°C, respectively. Symptoms developed on all plants after 11 days. Colony morphology on the leaves and the morphological characteristics were as described above. Conidia were washed off the leaves, DNA extracted, and the ITS was amplified by PCR. The resulting PCR product was sequenced and was identical to HM769725. To our knowledge, this is the first report of G. cichoracearum on S. novi-belgii in Denmark.
References: (1) U. Braun. The Powdery Mildews (Erysiphales) of Europe. Gustav Fischer Verlag, Jena Germany, 1995. (2) T. J. White et al. Page 315 in: PCR Protocols: A Guide to Methods and Applications. M. A. Innis et al., eds. Academic Press, New York, 1990.
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