Thirty-three isolates of the Fusarium graminearum species complex obtained from diseased maize (Zea mays) crowns and roots in the Winterton district, KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa were identified to species level. Their pathogenicity and virulence to maize ‘PHI 32D96B’ seedlings were determined under glasshouse conditions, with seedling survival and growth and crown and root rot as criteria. Phylogenetic analyses using the 3-O-acetyltransferase (Tri101) gene region sequences revealed the presence of F. boothii (2 isolates), F. graminearum sensu stricto (26 isolates), and F. meridionale (5 isolates) in the F. graminearum species complex associated with diseased maize crowns and roots. Pathogenicity results showed that F. boothii was the most and F. meridionale the least virulent of the three species. F. boothii and F. graminearum sensu stricto significantly reduced survival of seedlings and all three species caused significant reduction in growth and significantly more crown and root rot than the control (uninoculated). This is the first report of F. boothii, F. graminearum sensu stricto, and F. meridionale associated with diseased maize crowns and roots and their pathogenicity and virulence as soilborne pathogens on maize seedlings in South Africa.
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