Rice (Oryza sativa L.) has been grown in the Ord River Irrigation Area (ORIA) in northern Western Australia since 1960. In 2011, a sheath rot of rice was observed in the ORIA. Symptoms were variable, appearing as either (i) oblong pale to dark brown lesions up to 3 cm length, (ii) lesions with pale grey/brown centers and with dark brown margins, or (iii) diffuse dark or reddish brown streaks along the sheath. Lesions enlarged and coalesced, often covering the majority of the leaf sheath, disrupting panicle emergence. Isolations from small pieces of infested tissues from plants showing sheath rot symptoms were made onto water agar, subcultured onto potato dextrose agar, cultures maintained at 20°C, and a representative culture lodged both in the Western Australian Culture Collection maintained at the Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia (as WAC 13481) and in the culture collection located at the DAFF Plant Pathology Herbarium (as BRIP 54763). Amplification of the internal transcribed spacer (ITS)1 and (ITS)2 regions flanking the 5.8S rRNA gene were carried out with universal primers ITS1 and ITS4 according to the published protocol (4). The DNA PCR products from a single isolate were sequenced and BLAST analyses used to compare sequences with those in GenBank. The sequence had 99% nucleotide identity with the corresponding sequence in GenBank for Sarocladium oryzae (Sawada) W. Gams & D. Hawksworth. Isolates showed morphological (e.g., conidiophore and conidia characteristics) (2) and molecular (1) similarities with S. oryzae as described in other reports. The relevant sequence information for a representative isolate was lodged in GenBank (GenBank Accession No. JQ965668). Spores of S. oryzae were produced on rice agar under “black light” at 22°C to induce sporulation over 4 weeks. Under conditions of 30/28°C (day/night), 14/12 h (light/dark), rice cv. Quest, grown for 11 weeks until plants reached the tillering stage, was inoculated by spraying a suspension 5 × 107 spores/ml of the same single isolate onto foliage until runoff occurred. Inoculated plants were placed under a dark plastic cover for 72 h to maximize humidity levels around leaves and subsequently maintained under >90% relative humidity conditions. Symptoms of sheath rot as described in (i) and (ii) above appeared by 14 days after inoculation, with lesions up to 23 cm long by 15 days post-inoculation. Severe disease prevented young panicles from emerging. Infection studies were successfully repeated and S. oryzae was reisolated from leaf lesions 1 week after lesion appearance. No disease was observed on water-inoculated control rice plants. There have been records of S. oryzae on rice in New South Wales in the early 1980s (3) and in 2006 to 2007 (Australian Plant Pest Database), but to our knowledge, this is the first report of this pathogen in Western Australia.
References: (1) N. Ayyadurai et al. Cur. Microbiol. Mycologia 50:319, 2005. (2) B. L. K. Brady. No. 673 in: IMI Descriptions of Fungi and Bacteria, 1980. (3) D. Phillips et al. FAO Plant Prot. Bull. 40:4, 1992. (4) T. J. White et al. Page 315 in: PCR Protocols: A Guide to Methods and Applications. Academic Press, San Diego, CA, 1990.
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