Rhizoctonia solani consists of 13 anastomosis groups (AGs) designated AG1 to 13. AG3-PT is considered the predominant AG in potatoes (4) and is associated with quantitative and qualitative yield losses. Qualitative losses are typically associated with the tuber blemish disease, black scurf. However, atypical tuber blemishes such as elephant hide consisting of corky lesions on the tuber surface (2) have also been attributed to Rhizoctonia. Such atypical blemishes are not considered specific to Rhizoctonia, making direct-cause effect estimates difficult (1). Koch's postulates for the elephant hide symptom and R. solani AG3-PT have not been completed. Recently, growth cracking and scab lesions were observed on potato tubers in South Africa and attributed to a new Streptomyces species (3). These lesions and cracks were similar to elephant hide symptoms attributed to R. solani AG3-PT. Therefore, the cause of the elephant hide symptom in South Africa was investigated further. Symptoms of elephant hide and cracking have been observed on tubers from the Eastern Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North-Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, North West, Sandveld, and Western Free State growing regions. In 2012, three samples of potato tubers (cv. BP1) with elephant hide and cracking were selected for analysis. These samples were collected from Clanwilliam in the Sandveld potato growing region. Tubers were surface sterilized with 1% NaOCl; sections of affected tissue were excised and plated onto potato dextrose agar (PDA). Rhizoctonia-like colonies were identified and after further sub-culturing on PDA, three representative isolates (Rh3, Rh4, and Rh6) of R. solani from each sample were obtained. For each isolate, genomic DNA was extracted and the rDNA ITS region sequenced using ITS1-F and ITS4 (2). The resulting sequences (KF234142, KF234143, and KF234144) were at least 98% identical to other AG3-PT sequences on GenBank (JX27814 and KC157664). To confirm Koch's postulates, pathogenicity tests were conducted with the three isolates. PDA plugs of each isolate were added to 10 g of barley grains which were incubated for 14 days until fully colonized. The barley grains were then used to inoculate disease-free mini-tubers (cv. BP1) in 5l pots containing a sand-clay-pine bark mixture (1:1:1 ratio). Potato plants inoculated with sterile barley grains served as controls. Plants were held for 120 days in a greenhouse at 22°C with light for 12 h a day. Incidence of the elephant hide symptom for isolates Rh3, Rh4, and Rh6 was 58%, 33%, and 37.5%, respectively. Growth cracking and black scurf were also observed with each isolate. R. solani AG3-PT was successfully re-isolated from symptomatic tubers, confirming Koch's postulates. This is the first report of R. solani AG3-PT causing elephant hide in potato tubers in South Africa. Elephant hide caused by R. solani AG3-PT has been reported in tubers from France (2) and the United Kingdom (3), but Koch's postulates were not proven. In this study, Koch's postulates were proven for R. solani AG3-PT causing scab or elephant hide symptom and cracking in potato tubers. R. solani AG3-PT should thus be considered in addition to Streptomyces as a cause of this symptom and control strategies should also consider R. solani AG3-PT.
References: (1) G. J. Banville et al. Pages 321-330 in: Rhizoctonia Species: Taxonomy, Molecular Biology, Ecology, Pathology and Disease Control, B. Sneh et al., eds. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, The Netherlands, 1996. (2) M. Fiers et al. Eur. J. Plant. Pathol. 128:353, 2010. (3) R. Gouws and A. McLeod. Plant Dis. 96:1223, 2012. (4) J. W. Woodhall et al. Eur. J. Plant. Pathol. 136:273, 2013.
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