The genus Passiflora (Passifloraceae family) contains more than 500 species and several hybrids. In Italy, some of these species and hybrids are grown as ornamental evergreen vines or shrubs. During August and September 2010, a crown and root rot was observed in a stock of approximately 6,000 potted 2-year-old plants of Passiflora mollissima (Kunth) Bailey, commonly known as the banana passionflower, in a nursery located in eastern Sicily (southern Italy). Disease incidence was approximately 20%. Disease symptoms consisted of water-soaked lesions at the crown and a root rot. Successively, older crown lesions turned light brown to brown and expanded to girdle the stem. As crown and root rot progressed, basal leaves turned yellow and gradually became necrotic and infected plants wilted and died. A fungus with mycelial and morphological characteristics of Rhizoctonia solani Kühn was consistently isolated from crown lesions and brown decaying roots when plated on potato dextrose agar (PDA) amended with streptomycin sulfate at 100 μg/ml. Fungal colonies were initially white, turned brown with age, and produced irregularly shaped, brown sclerotia. Mycelium was branched at right angles with a septum near the branch with a slight constriction at the branch base. Hyphal cells removed from 10 representative cultures grown at 25°C on 2% water agar were determined to be multinucleate when stained with 1% safranin O and 3% KOH solution (1) and examined at ×400. Anastomosis groups were determined by pairing isolates on 2% water agar in petri plates (4). Pairings were made with tester strains of AG-1, AG-2, AG-3, AG-4, AG-5, AG-6, and AG-11. Anastomosis was observed only with tester isolates of AG-4 (3). Pathogenicity tests were performed on container-grown, healthy, 3-month-old cuttings. Twenty plants of P. mollissima were inoculated near the base of the stem with five 1-cm2 PDA plugs from 5-day-old mycelial plugs obtained from two representative cultures. The same number of plants served as uninoculated controls. Plants were maintained at 25°C and 95% relative humidity with a 12-h fluorescent light/dark regimen. Wilt symptoms due to crown and root rot, identical to ones observed in the nursery, appeared 7 to 8 days after inoculation with either of the two isolates and all plants died within 20 days. No disease was observed on control plants. R. solani AG-4 was reisolated from symptomatic tissues and identified as previously described, confirming its pathogenicity. Damping-off or crown and root rot due to R. solani were previously detected on P. edulis in Brazil, Africa, India, Oceania, and Australia (2). To our knowledge, this is the first report of R. solani causing crown and root rot on P. mollissima.
References: (1) R. J. Bandoni. Mycologia 71:873, 1979. (2) J. L. Bezerra and M. L. Oliveira. Fitopathol. Brasil. 9:273, 1984. (3) D. E. Carling. Page 37 in: Grouping in Rhizoctonia solani by Hyphal Anastomosis Reactions. Kluwer Academic Publishers, the Netherlands, 1996. (4) C. C. Tu and J. W. Kimbrough. Mycologia 65:941, 1973.
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