Rebutia perplexa, Cactaceae family, is a clumping fine thorny cactus, producing several flushes of pink flowers. In the spring of 2013, a blight was observed in a farm located near Imperia (northern Italy) on 2% of 2,000 3-year-old plants, grown in plastic pots. Affected plants showed pale brown discoloration of stems, starting from the base, and eventually collapsed. Flowers also rotted and wilted. In the presence of high relative humidity, a rare, whitish mycelium developed on the surface of the substrate. Eventually, infected plants died. Symptomatic tissues of the stem were taken from 10 plants and plated on potato dextrose agar (PDA). A fungus with the morphological characters of Rhizoctonia solani (3) was consistently recovered. Three representative isolates obtained from affected plants were successfully paired with tester strains of R. solani (AG 1, AG 2-2-IIIB, AG 2-2-IV, AG 4, AG 7, AG 11) (2) and examined microscopically. Three replicated pairings were made for each tester strain. The Rebutia isolates anastomosed only with AG 2-2-IIIB tester strain with high hyphal fusion frequency. The hyphal diameter at the point of anastomosis was reduced, the anastomosis point was obvious, and death of adjacent cells was observed, indicating anastomosis reactions (1). Tests were performed twice. Mycelium of 15-day-old isolates maintained at 27 to 30°C, appeared whitish or pale buff in color, coarse, with a concentric zonation, scarce aerial mycelium, and without sclerotia. The optimum temperature for mycelium growth was 30°C (daily growth rate: 24.6 mm) and isolates grew also at 35°C. The internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region of rDNA was amplified using the primers ITS1/ITS4 and sequenced. BLASTn analysis of the 523-bp amplicon (GenBank Accession No. KF719318) showed a 99% homology with the sequence of the R. solani AG 2-2-IIIB isolate GU811672. The nucleotide sequence has been assigned the GenBank Accession No. KF719318. Therefore, on the basis of molecular characteristics, anastomosis tests, temperature growth, and cultural characteristics, the isolates from R. perplexa were identified as R. solani AG 2-2-IIIB. For pathogenicity tests, 3 g of colonized wheat kernel from 10-day-old cultures of a representative isolate of the fungus was added per 1 l of substrate in 12 potted healthy plants of R. perplexa. The inoculum was prepared by inoculating wheat kernels with the mycelium of 10-day-old cultures of the fungus and incubating at 25 ± 1°C (12 h fluorescent light, 12 h dark). Twelve plants inoculated with non-infested wheat kernels served as controls. Plants were covered with plastic bags and maintained in a growth chamber at 25 ± 1°C. The first symptoms, similar to those observed in the farm, developed 5 days after inoculation. Fifteen days after the artificial inoculation, all inoculated plants were dead. R. solani was re-isolated only from the stems of symptomatic plants. Control plants remained healthy. The pathogenicity test was carried out twice with similar results. This is, to our knowledge, the first report of blight of R. perplexa caused by R. solani in Italy as well as worldwide.
References: (1) D. E. Carling. Grouping in Rhizoctonia solani by hyphal anastomosis reactions. In: Rhizoctonia Species: Taxonomy, Molecular Biology, Ecology, Pathology and Disease control. Kluwer Academic Publishers, The Netherlands, pp. 37-47, 1996. (2) A. Ogoshi. Ann. Rev. Phytopathol. 25:125, 1987. (3) B. Sneh et al. Identification of Rhizoctonia species. APS Press, St Paul, MN, 1991.