Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) is an important indigenous crop in South Africa. Oomycetes are a common problem in rooibos nurseries, causing serious losses, but limited information is available on the species involved. Molecular and morphological analyses of 117 oomycete isolates from 19 rooibos nurseries and 33 isolates from 11 native rooibos sites revealed the presence of several Pythium spp., including Pythium acanthicum, P. irregulare, P. mamillatum, P. myriotylum, P. pyrilobum, P. cederbergense, and Pythium RB II, and Phytophthora cinnamomi (native site). Most of the species were identified in nurseries and native rooibos, with Pythium irregulare being the most common species occurring in all nurseries and 46% of the native sites. Phylogenetic analyses of the internal transcribed spacer region of the P. irregulare isolates showed that isolates within this species complex fit into three subclades, of which only two have previously been reported. On rooibos, all species except P. acanthicum and the previously characterized P. cederbergense and Pythium RB II were pathogenic and highly virulent. On lupin and oat, rotation crops in nurseries, the three aforementioned species were also nonpathogenic. All the other oomycete species were pathogenic on lupin but less so than on rooibos. On oat, only P. irregulare, P. myriotylum, and P. pyrilobum were pathogenic. This is the first report of P. mamillatum, P. pyrilobum, and P. myriotylum as pathogens of lupin, and P. irregulare and P. pyrilobum as pathogens of oat. The three nonpathogenic Pythium spp. were able to significantly reduce disease caused by pathogenic species in the less susceptible lupin and oat but not on rooibos. On lupin, the nonpathogenic species enhanced the virulence of Phytophthora cinnamomi.
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