Rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis Muell. Arg.) is an important industrial crop of tropical areas for natural rubber production. In October 2013, foliar spots (0.1 to 0.4 mm in diameter), black surrounded by a yellow halo, and with lesions slightly sunken were observed on the rubber tree leaf in a growing area in Heikou County of Yunnan Province. Lesion tissues removed from the border between symptomatic and healthy tissue were surface sterilized in 75% ethanol and air-dried, plated on PDA plates, and incubated at 28°C with alternating day/night cycles of light. The pathogen was observed growing out of many of the leaf pieces, and produced abundant conidia. Colonies 6.1 cm in diameter developed on potato carrot agar (PCA) after 7 days, with well-defined concentric rings of growth. Colonies on PCA were composed of fine, dark, radiating, surface and subsurface hyphae. Conidia produced in PCA culture were mostly solitary or in short chains of 2 to 5 spores, long ovoid to clavate, and light brown, 40 to 81.25 × 8 to 20 μm (200 colonies were measured), with 3 to 6 transverse septa and 0 to 2 longitudinal or oblique septa. Morphological characteristics were similar to those described for Alternaria heveae (3,4). A disease of rubber tree caused by Alternaria sp. had been reported in Mexico in 1947 (2). DNA of Ah01HK13 isolate was extracted for PCR and sequencing of the ITS region with ITS1 and ITS4 primers was completed. From the BLAST analysis, the sequence of Ah01HK13 (GenBank Accession No. KF953884), had 97% similarity to A. dauci, 96% identical to A. macrospora (AY154701.1 and DQ156342.1, respectively), indicating the pathogen belonged to Alternaria genus. According to morphological characteristics, this pathogen was identified as A. heveae. Pathogenicity of representative isolate, Ah01HK13 was confirmed using a field rubber tree inoculation method. Three rubber plants (the clone of rubber tree Yunyan77-4) were grown to the copper-colored leaf stage and inoculated by spraying spore suspension (concentration = 104 conidia/ml) to the copper-colored leaves until drops were equally distributed on it using manual pressure sprayer. Three rubber plants sprayed with sterile distilled water were used as controls. After inoculation, the plants were covered with plastic bags. The plastic bags were removed after 2 days post-inoculation (dpi) and monitored daily for symptom development (1). The experiment was repeated three times. The typical 0.1 to 0.4 mm black leaf spots were observed 7 dpi. No symptoms were observed on control plants. A fungus with the same colony and conidial morphology as A. heveae were re-isolated from leaf lesions on inoculated rubber plants, but not from asymptomatic leaves of control plants, fulfilling Koch's postulates. Based on these results, the disease was identified as black spot of rubber tree caused by A. heveae. To our knowledge, this is the first report of A. heveae on rubber tree in China.
References: (1) Z. Y. Cai et al. Microbiol Res. 168:340, 2013. (2) W. J. Martin. Plant Dis. Rep. 31:155, 1947. (3) E. G. Simmons. Mycotaxon 50:262, 1994. (4) T. Y. Zhang. Page 111 in: Flora Fungorum Sinicorum: Alternaria, Science Press, Beijing, 2003.