From September 2009 to October 2012, surveys to determine population structure of Fusarium species on maize were conducted in 22 provinces in China, where the disease incidence ranged from 5 to 20% in individual fields. Maize ears with clear symptoms of Fusarium ear rot (with a white to pink- or salmon-colored mold at the ear tip) were collected from fields. Symptomatic kernels were surface-sterilized (1 min in 0.1% HgCl2, and 30 s in 70% ethanol, followed by three rinses with sterile distilled water), dried, and placed on PDA. After incubation for 3 to 5 days at 28°C in the dark, fungal colonies displaying morphological characteristics of Fusarium spp. (2) were purified by transferring single spores and identified to species level by morphological characteristics (2), and DNA sequence analysis of translation elongation factor-1α (TEF) and β-tubulin genes. A large number of Fusarium species (mainly F. graminearum species complex, F. verticillioides, and F. proliferatum) were identified. These Fusarium species are the main causal agents of maize ear rot (2). Morphological characteristics of six strains from Anhui, Hubei, and Yunnan provinces were found to be identical to those of F. kyushuense (1), which was mixed with other Fusarium species in the natural infection in the field. Colonies grew fast on PDA with reddish-white and floccose mycelia. The average growth rate was 7 to 9 mm per day at 25°C in the dark. Reverse pigmentation was deep red. Microconidia were obovate, ellipsoidal to clavate, and 5.4 to 13.6 (average 8.8) μm in length. Macroconidia were straight or slightly curved, 3- to 5-septate, with a curved and acute apical cell, and 26.0 to 50.3 (average 38.7) μm in length. No chlamydospores were observed. Identity of the fungus was further investigated by sequence comparison of the partial TEF gene (primers EF1/2) and β-tubulin gene (primers T1/22) of one isolate (3). BLASTn analysis of the TEF amplicon (KC964133) and β-tubulin gene (KC964152) obtained with cognate sequences available in GenBank database revealed 99.3 and 99.8% sequence identity, respectively, to F. kyushuense. Pathogenicity tests were conducted twice by injecting 2 ml of a prepared spore suspension (5 × 105 spores/ml) into maize ears (10 per isolate of cv. Zhengdan958) through silk channel 4 days post-silk emergence under field conditions in Wuhan, China. Control plants were inoculated with sterile distilled water. The ears were harvested and evaluated 30 days post-inoculation. Reddish-white mold was observed on inoculated ears and the infected kernels were brown. No symptoms were observed on water controls. Koch's postulates were fulfilled by re-isolating the pathogen from infected kernels. F. kyushuense, first described on wheat in Japan (1), has also been isolated from rice seeds in China (4). It was reported to produce both Type A and Type B trichothecene mycotoxins (1), which cause toxicosis in animals. To our knowledge, this is the first report of F. kyushuense causing maize ear rot in China and this disease could represent a serious risk of yield losses and mycotoxin contamination in maize and other crops. The disease must be considered in existing disease management practices.
References: (1) T. Aoki and K. O'Donnell. Mycoscience 39:1, 1998. (2) J. F. Leslie and B. A. Summerell. The Fusarium Laboratory Manual. Blackwell Publishing, Ames, IA, 2006. (3) F. Van Hove et al. Mycologia 103:570, 2011. (4) Z. H. Zhao and G. Z. Lu. Mycotaxon 102:119, 2007.
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