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The pitch canker pathogen Fusarium circinatum: endophytic on grasses in South Africa

Darryl Herron: Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute, University of Pretoria

<div>Since its first discovery in 1945, the pitch canker fungus, <em>Fusarium circinatum</em>, has been known only as a pathogen of <em>Pinus </em>species and <em>Pseudotsuga menziesii. </em>Recent studies have shown that the fungus is able to infect non-coniferous plants, including eight different grass species and six species of herbaceous plants. In this study, we investigated this association by identifying the <em>Fusarium</em> species inhabiting sixteen species of grass occurring in the understory of pitch canker-affected <em>Pinus patula </em>trees in a South African plantation. Species of <em>Fusarium</em> were identified using their morphological characteristics as well as by phylogenetic inference based on DNA sequences for the beta-tubulin and translation elongation factor-1-alpha gene regions. A number of important <em>Fusarium </em>species were recovered from these grasses, including <em>F. circinatum</em>, which was found on five of the sixteen grass species. This study represents the fourth report (two from South Africa, one from Spain and one from the USA) of the pitch canker fungus from grass. The cryptic occurrence of this quarantine pine pathogen in non-coniferous plants highlights a need to consider the role that other plants could play on its biology and distribution and the negative impact it could have on quarantine efforts.</div>