Rheum rhabarbarum L., rhubarb, is a perennial herb planted mainly in Hebei, Hubei, Shanxi, Heilongjiang, and Jilin provinces as well as Inner Mongolia, China. The plant grows about 1,000 meters above sea level (4), and is used widely in China to treat constipation and gout. From June to September 2012, a leaf spot was observed on R. rhabarbarum in the medicinal garden of Jilin Agricultural University, Changchun, Jilin Province, causing significant effects on the leaves of all infected plants. In the early stage of disease development, small red lesions were visible on infected leaves, which subsequently developed into irregularly shaped or circular necrotic spots, each with a light colored center, pink-red alternating concentric rings, and surrounded by a chlorotic halo. Some lesions became perforated in the center. Lesions ranged from 1 to 15 mm in diameter. Extensive spotting resulted in general browning and yellowing of entire leaves. As lesions enlarged and coalesced, some leaves died from the margin inwards. Lesions on the stem were fusiform and sunken. Small pieces of diseased leaves and stems were surface-disinfested in 75% ethanol for 60 s, rinsed twice in distilled water, dried, and plated on potato dextrose agar (PDA). A Phoma species was isolated that produced a gray or dark gray colony after 5 to 7 days. The isolate was transferred to oatmeal agar (OA) (3). Pycnidia were dark brown to black, globose to subglobose, and 121 to 354 × 100 to 262 μm. Conidia were ellipsoidal or reniform, colorless, unicellular, and 3.8 to 6.5 × 1.7 to 4.1 μm. On the basis of these characteristics, the fungus was identified as Phoma rhei (1). A PCR assay with the ITS4 and ITS5 primers was used to amplify the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region of ribosomal DNA (rDNA) (2). The amplified product (567 bp) was sequenced and the sequence submitted to GenBank (Accession No. KF531831). The ITS sequence exhibited 99% identity to that of a P. rhei isolate in GenBank (GU237743.1), confirming the morphological identification. Pathogenicity of eight isolates on rhubarb was confirmed by spraying a spore suspension (1 × 106 spores/ml) produced on PDA on the leaves of each 6-year-old R. rhabarbarum (cv. Boyedahuang) plant. Each isolate was inoculated onto five plants, and five plants were sprayed similarly with sterilized water as a control treatment. The plants were then covered with plastic bags for 48 h, and kept in a greenhouse (20 to 30°C with a 12-h photoperiod/day). Initial symptoms on inoculated leaves were observed 3 to 4 days after inoculation, while the control plants remained healthy. Re-isolations from lesions on the inoculated leaves, using the same protocol as the original isolations, produced fungal colonies with the same morphological characteristics as the original isolates of P. rhei, but no fungi were re-isolated from the control plants. This fungus has been found on R. rhaponticum in New Zealand (1), but to our knowledge this is the first report of P. rhei on R. rhabarbarum in China.
References: (1) G. H. Boerema et al. Phoma Identification Manual. Diffferentiation of Specific and Infra-Specific Taxa in Culture. CABI Publishing. Wallingford, UK, 2004. (2) D. E. L. Cooke et al. Mycol. Res. 101:667, 1997. (3) Z. D. Fang. Research Method of Phytopathology. China Agricultural Press (In Chinese), 1998. (4) A. J. Li et al. Flora Reipublicae Popularis Sinicae. Tomus 25:171, 1998.
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