Prior to 2011, foliar blight was not reported as a serious threat to hot pepper cultivation in India. During the June-to-January cropping season of 2011 and 2012, severe foliar blight epidemics were observed in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu states of India. In all, 52 Phytophthora isolates, recovered from blight-affected leaf tissues of hot pepper from different localities in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu states between 2011 and 2012, were identified: 43 isolates as P. boehmeriae and 9 isolates as P. capsici, based on morphology, a similarity search of internal transcribed spacer sequences at GenBank, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) restriction fragment length polymorphism patterns, and species-specific PCR using PC1/PC2 and PB1/PB2 primer pairs. The isolates were further assessed for metalaxyl sensitivity and aggressiveness on hot pepper. All isolates of P. boehmeriae were metalaxyl sensitive while P. capsici isolates were intermediate in sensitivity. P. boehmeriae isolates were highly aggressive and produced significantly (P < 0.01) larger lesion than those of P. capsici isolates. Thus, emergence of P. boehmeriae was responsible for severe leaf blight epidemics on hot pepper in South India, although it is not serious pathogen on any crop in any part of the world. These results have epidemiological and management implications for the production of hot pepper in India.
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