Philotheca myoporoides (DC.) M.J. Bayly (previously known as Eriostemon myoporoides), commonly called long-leaf waxflower and native to eastern Australia (Rutaceae family), is a hardy compact shrub or small tree occurring in subtropical to cool temperate regions. P. myoporoides is cultivated in Sicily (Italy) for its ornamental appeal. During April of 2010, a widespread wilting was observed on approximately 80% of 2,000 1-year-old, potted long-leaf waxflower plants grown in a commercial nursery near Catania (eastern Sicily, Italy). Internally, symptomatic plants had conspicuous vascular brown discoloration from the crown to the canopy. Diseased crown and stem tissues of 20 plants were surface disinfested for 30 s in 1% NaOCl, rinsed in sterile water, plated on potato dextrose agar (PDA) amended with 100 mg/liter of streptomycin sulfate, and incubated at 25°C. A Fusarium sp. was consistently isolated from affected plant tissues. Colonies with white or light purple aerial mycelia and violet pigmentation on the underside of the cultures developed after 9 days. On carnation leaf agar, 20 single-spore isolates produced microconidia on short monophialides, macroconidia that were three to five septate with a pedicellate base, and solitary and double-celled or aggregate chlamydospores. A PCR assay was conducted on one representative isolate (ITEM 13490) by analyzing sequences of the benA gene (coding β-tubulin protein) and CaM gene (coding calmodulin protein) using the primers reported by O'Donnell et al. (1). The benA gene sequences of ITEM 13490 (GenBank No. FR828825) exhibited an identity of 100% to Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. radicis-lycopersici strain ATCC 52429 (GenBank No. DQ092480). CaM gene sequences of ITEM 13490 (GenBank No. FR828826) exhibited an identity of 99.6% to F. oxysporum strain ITEM 2367 (GenBank No. AJ560774). Morphological characteristics of the 20 isolates, as well as the PCR assay on a representative strain, identified the isolates associated with disease symptoms as F. oxysporum Schlechtend.:Fr. A pathogenicity test was performed by placing two 1-cm2 plugs of PDA from 9-day-old mycelial cultures near the crown on potted, healthy, 2-month-old cuttings of P. myoporoides. Thirty plants were inoculated with strain ITEM 13490 and the same number of plants served as noninoculated controls. All plants were enclosed for 4 days in plastic bags and placed in a growth chamber at 25 ± 1°C. Plants were then moved to a greenhouse where temperatures ranged from 23 to 27°C. First symptoms, which were identical to those observed in the nursery, developed on one plant 15 days after inoculation. Wilting was detected on all plants after 30 days. Control plants remained symptomless. F. oxysporum was successfully reisolated from symptomatic crown and stem tissues and identified as described above, fulfilling Koch's postulates. To our knowledge, this is the first report of F. oxysporum causing disease of P. myoporoides worldwide. Moreover, this pathogen was recently reported in the same nursery on Eremophila sp. (2), confirming the presence of Fusarium wilt as a potential threat to ornamental plant production in this area, and necessitates the innovation and development of disinfection methods for alveolar trays, greenhouses, and various propagation materials to reduce future disease outbreaks.
References: (1) K. O'Donnell et al. Mycoscience 41:61, 2000. (2) G. Polizzi et al. Plant Dis 94:1509, 2010.
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