Phymatotrichopsis omnivora, the causal pathogen of cotton root rot, is a devastating ascomycete that affects numerous important dicotyledonous plants grown in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. P. omnivora is notoriously difficult to isolate from infected plants; therefore methods for accurate and sensitive detection directly from symptomatic and asymptomatic plant samples are needed for disease diagnostics and pathogen identification. Primers were designed for P. omnivora based on consensus sequences of the nuclear ribosomal internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region of geographically representative isolates. Primers were compared against published P. omnivora sequences and validated against DNA from P. omnivora isolates and infected plant samples. The primer combinations amplified products from a range of P. omnivora isolates representative of known ITS haplotypes using standard end-point polymerase chain reaction (PCR) methodology. The assays detected P. omnivora from infected root samples of cotton (Gossypium hirsutum) and alfalfa (Medicago sativa). Healthy plants and other relevant root pathogens did not produce PCR products with the P. omnivora–specific primers. Primer pair PO2F/PO2R was the most sensitive in end-point PCR assays and is recommended for use for pathogen identification from mycelial tissue and infected plant materials when quantitative PCR (qPCR) is not available. Primer pair PO3F/PO2R was highly sensitive (1 fg) when used in SYBR Green qPCR assays and is recommended for screening of plant materials potentially infected by P. omnivora or samples with suboptimal DNA quality. The described PCR-based detection methods will be useful for rapid and sensitive screening of infected plants in diagnostic laboratories, plant health inspections, and plant breeding programs.
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