Phytophthora spp. are waterborne plant pathogens that are commonly found in streams, rivers, and reclaimed irrigation water. Rhododendron and Pieris trap plants at two commercial nurseries were irrigated with water naturally infested with Phytophthora spp. during the 2011 and 2012 growing seasons to assess the frequency of disease. Phytophthora spp. were consistently recovered from water samples at every collection time but detected on only 2 of the 384 trap plants during the two growing seasons. Pathogenicity assays proved that Phytophthora hydropathica and Phytophthora taxon PgChlamydo, commonly recovered taxa in irrigation water at the nurseries, were foliar pathogens of Rhododendron and Pieris; however, neither species was able to cause root rot on these same hosts. Overall, Phytophthora spp.-infested irrigation water did not act as a primary source of infection on Rhododendron and Pieris, even though foliar pathogenic species of Phytophthora were present in the water.
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