Chinese atractylodes (Atractylodes japonica Koidz.ez Kitam.) is a perennial herb in the Compositae family, and is widely distributed in China. The dried rhizomes of the plant are used in traditional Chinese medicine. During the summer of 2011, typical signs and symptoms of Sclerotinia rot were observed on Chinese atractylodes in a production field of Liaoning Province of China. Symptoms were observed in plants at the flowering stage, distributed in patches throughout the rows, and with a disease incidence of approximately 10 to 15%. The lower mature leaves of infected plants first became yellow and wilted, basal stem areas showed a black-brown rot at the same time under conditions of high humidity, and white cottony mycelium formed along the basal stem and soil surfaces. Ultimately, the basal stem and roots rotted and the plants wilted and died quickly. Black, irregular sclerotia (average 0.8 to 6.9 mm in diameter) were also observed within the pith cavity of split stems and rotted roots. The pathogen was isolated from symptomatic tissues and sclerotia, surface disinfested with 2% sodium hypochlorite, and cultured on potato dextrose agar (PDA) (1). The fungus was mesophilic, with an optimum temperature for mycelial growth in culture of about 20°C. Colonies on PDA produced masses of white aerial mycelium, with small white flocci distributed among sclerotia. After 2 weeks, sclerotia 0.5 to 4.5 mm in diameter were produced near the margin in a uniform distribution. Sclerotia were spherical, elongated, or fused to form irregular shapes and tightly attached to the agar surface by their under surface, which could be seen through the bottom of the petri dishes. DNA sequences of five replicates were obtained using the TianGen DNA secure plant kit. The internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region of rDNA was amplified with primers ITS1/ITS4 and sequenced. BLAST analysis of the 513-bp segment showed high similarity (99%) with a sequence of Sclerotinia nivalis (GenBank Accession No. AB516670). A representative sequence was deposited in GenBank (Accession No. JX294862). The fungus isolated from symptomatic tissues was identified as S. nivalis Saito on the basis of morphological and cultural characteristics (2,3) and ITS sequence analysis. Symptoms were reproduced in the greenhouse by inoculating the basal stem and roots of 15 atractylodes plants at the 7- to 10-leaf stage. Inoculum was prepared by macerating 14-day-old PDA cultures of the fungus in a blender and placing the mixture (approximately 20 g) into the potting medium of each plant. Sterile PDA was used to inoculate the five control plants. Plants were maintained in a greenhouse at 22 to 25°C and about 75% relative humidity. After 7 to 10 days, symptoms were similar to those in the fields. Lower leaves of inoculated plants became yellow and wilted, and infected plants died 2 weeks after inoculation, whereas control plants remained healthy. The pathogen was successfully recovered from symptomatic tissues, completing Koch's postulates. To our knowledge, this is the first report of Sclerotinia rot of Chinese atractylodes. Given its wide host range, S. nivalis has great potential to become an economically important plant pathogen.
References: (1) W. G. Kim and W. D. Cho. Mycobiology 30:41, 2002. (2) G. Q. Li et al. Mycol. Res. 104:232, 2000. (3) I. Saito. Mycoscience 38:227, 1997.