Basella alba is a perennial plant of the Basellaceae, native to India, and is distributed widely in the tropics as an ornamental. It is also known as Indian spinach, Ceylon spinach, vine spinach, Malabar spinach or Malabar nightshade and is mostly cultivated as a leafy vegetable or spinach substitute, being rich in vitamin A and C. From 2008 to 2010, severe foliar disease was observed on B. alba in the region of Southern Andhra Pradesh, India. Approximately 75 to 85% of the fields were affected with disease incidence ranging from 70 to 90%. Leaf lesions were elliptical to irregular oval, yellow brown to dark brown, and sometimes concentrically zonate with diffuse margins frequently surrounded by light-colored haloes. Infection often started at the leaf tips and progressed to the base of leaves as symptoms developed. In severe infections, lesions enlarged and coalesced, causing necrosis, wilting, and ultimately death of leaves. Tissues from the margin of infected leaf parts were surface sterilized in 1% sodium hypochlorite for 1 min, plated on potato dextrose agar (PDA), and then incubated at 27°C in the dark for 7 days. Hyphal tips from the margin of each developing colony were subcultured on PDA. Fungal colonies were initially white, becoming olivaceous, and turning brown with age. Conidiophores were brown, short, simple, or sometimes branched. Conidia were obclavate, obpyriform or ellipsoidal with a short conical beak, borne in long chains, branched or unbranched, pale brown to brown, and 18 to 32 μm long and 5 to 14 μm wide at the broadest point. Conidia had three to eight transverse septa and one to two longitudinal septa. On the basis of conidial morphological characteristics, the pathogen was identified as Alternaria alternata (Fr.) Keissler (2). For pathogenicity tests, inoculations were performed on detached, surface sterilized, healthy leaves following the method of Belisario (1). A 5-μl drop of conidial suspension containing 1 × 105 CFU/ml was placed on each leaf and 12 leaves per isolate were used. Leaves were incubated in a growth chamber (90% relative humidity with a 12-h photoperiod). After 7 days, leaf spots that were similar to the original symptoms developed on all inoculated leaves and A. alternata was consistently reisolated from symptomatic leaf tissues on PDA. Control leaves inoculated with sterile distilled water remained asymptomatic. The experiment was performed three times. To our knowledge, this is the first report of A. alternata on B. alba in India.
References: (1) A. Belisario et al. Plant Dis. 83:696, 1999. (2) E. G. Simmons. Alternaria: An Identification Manual. The American Phytopathological Society, St. Paul, MN, 2007.