Boxwood (Buxus spp.) are commercially important evergreen ornamental plants with an annual market value of over $103 million in the United States. The recent U.S. incursion of boxwood blight disease caused by the fungus Calonectria pseudonaviculata (syn. Cylindrocladium pseudonaviculatum, Cy. buxicola) threatens the health and productivity of boxwood in both landscape plantings and nurseries. The first confirmed U.S. reports of the disease were made from Connecticut and North Carolina in November 2011 (2,4), followed by diagnoses in 10 additional states during 2012 and 2013. By August 2013, symptoms consistent with boxwood blight had been observed from B. sempervirens in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and southeastern New York. Affected plants showed rapid onset of disease symptoms: dark brown to black spots or diffuse dark areas on leaves, followed by defoliation. Narrow, elongate black cankers also formed on current season shoots. Symptomatic stems and leaves were placed in petri dishes with moistened filter paper at 22°C for 3 days under continuous light. Conidiophores were excised, then placed on potato dextrose agar amended with streptomycin and neomycin (0.3 g/l). Resultant colonies showed dark brown pigmentation at the colony center surrounded by tan to reddish brown rings with white mycelia at the advancing edge. Conidia (n = 30 per isolate) were hyaline, cylindrical, rounded at both ends, with a single septum (45 to 76 × 4 to 6 μm; avg. 63 × 5 μm). Conidiophores (n = 20 per isolate) comprised a stipe, a hyaline septate stipe extension (length 119 to 192 μm; avg. 150 μm) and a terminal ellipsoidal vesicle (diameter 4 to 10 μm; avg. 7 μm). Based on morphological characteristics, the causal agent was identified as C. pseudonaviculata (1,4). Voucher specimens were deposited in the U.S. National Fungus Collections (BPI 892698 to 701). To verify morphological diagnosis, genomic DNA was extracted from fungal biomass grown in liquid cultures of yeast extract peptone dextrose media. A portion of the β-tubulin gene (TUB2) was PCR amplified and sequenced bi-directionally using primers Bta/Bt2b (3). BLASTn searches of NCBI GenBank databases using the TUB2 sequences (Accession Nos. KF785808 to 11) demonstrated 96 to 100% sequence identity with other C. pseudonaviculata isolates. To confirm pathogenicity, 5-month-old B. sempervirens and B. microphylla seedlings were spray-inoculated with a spore suspension of 1 × 104 conidia/ml. One isolate from each state was independently tested with four replicates each. Non-inoculated water-sprayed plants served as negative controls. Plants were maintained in growth chambers at 22°C under constant light. Blight symptoms developed 4 to 5 days post inoculation. C. pseudonaviculata was re-isolated from inoculated plants; no symptoms or signs were observed from control plants. To our knowledge, this is the first report of C. pseudonaviculata in the states of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York. This report demonstrates that C. pseudonaviculata is now widespread across the United States eastern seaboard, and represents a substantial threat to boxwood plants in North American landscapes and nurseries.
References: (1) P. Crous et al. Sydowia 54:23, 2002. (2) D. F. Farr and A. Y. Rossman. Fungal Databases, USDA-ARS. Retrieved from http://nt.ars-grin.gov/fungaldatabases, 30 August 2013. (3) N. L. Glass and G. C. Donaldson. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 61:1323, 1995. (4) K. L. Ivors et al. Plant Dis. 96:1070, 2012.
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