Eggplant (Solanum melongena L.) is an economically important vegetable crop worldwide. In August 2012, severe stem cankers were observed on eggplant at the early stage of maturation in several fields in Guangdong Province, China. Diseased plants raised cankers on the stems and branches, which resulted in wilting and stunting. No symptoms developed on eggplant fruit. Disease incidence was as high as 40% within affected fields. By using routine fungal-isolation methods and single-spore purification technique, five single-conidial isolates were obtained from each diseased stem. Colonies were grayish-white, circular, and got yellow pigmentation when placed in acidified potato dextrose agar (PDA) in an incubator at pH 4.5 and 25°C with a 12-h photoperiod. Stromata were black, large, and spreading in a concentric pattern. Conidiomata were pycnidial, and the pycnidia were round, oblate, triangular or irregular, and unilocular. Conidiophores were colorless, separated, dichotomous, and 10.0 to 18.0 × 1.5 to 2.0 μm. Alpha conidia were single-celled, ellipsoidal to fusiform, guttulate, and 6.0 to 8.0 × 2.0 to 2.5 μm. Beta conidia, produced on oat meal agar in 2 weeks at 25°C in the dark, were filiform, hamate, and 16.0 to 28.0 × 0.7 to 1.0 μm. Based on these morphological characters, the fungus was identified as Phomopsis longicolla Hobbs (1). The ITS-rDNA sequence (GenBank Accession No. KC886605) of the isolate EPPL1 of this fungus (P. longicolla EPPL1) was obtained by using universal primers ITS5/ITS4 (1). BLAST searches showed a 98% homology with the sequence of the ITS region of rDNA of P. longicolla. Phylogenetic analysis showed that P. longicolla EPPL1 clustered with P. longicolla SYJM15 and formed a distinct clade distantly related to P. vexans PV3 (GU373630), a well-known pathogen of eggplant. Digestion of PCR-amplified DNA with Alu I yielded two restriction fragments of sizes consistent with those reported for P. longicolla (2). Pathogenicity tests were performed on 30-day-old plants of cv. Yuefengzihongqie grown in a plastic pot (1 liter) in a greenhouse by using mycelial plugs and conidial suspensions of isolate EPPL1 as inocula. A mycelial plug (4 mm in diameter) from a 7-day-old PDA culture was placed on stems of both wounded and non-wounded plants and covered with sterile absorbent cotton moistened with sterile distilled water. Both wounded and non-wounded plants were inoculated with 0.5 ml of conidial suspension (1 × 106 conidia ml–1) dropped onto sterile absorbent cotton covering the stems. Control assays were performed with agar plugs and sterile distilled water only. Inoculated plants were placed in a greenhouse with a 12-h photoperiod at 28°C. Each treatment was replicated on five plants, and the test was repeated. Twenty-five days after inoculation, both wounded and non-wounded plants inoculated with either method showed raised cankers at the points of inoculation and canker lesions similar to those observed in the field expanded up and down the stems to reach lengths of 15 to 30 mm. Later, sparse, small, black pycnidia formed on the surface of the lesions. The inoculated plants exhibited stunting and premature senescence compared to controls. P. longicolla was re-isolated from the infected stems of inoculated plants. Control plants were asymptomatic. To our knowledge, this is the first report of P. longicolla causing stem canker in eggplant in Guangdong, China. Considering the economic importance of eggplant in Guangdong Province and throughout the world, further study of phomopsis stem canker of eggplant is warranted.
References: (1) T. W. Hobbs et al. Mycologia 77:535, 1985. (2) A. W. Zhang et al. Plant Dis. 81:1143, 1997.
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