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Population Structure and Disease Development of Cryphonectria parasitica in European Chestnut Forests in the Presence of Natural Hypovirulence

January 1997 , Volume 87 , Number  1
Pages  50 - 59

Martin Bissegger , Daniel Rigling , and Ursula Heiniger

Department of Forest Ecology, Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow, and Landscape Research, CH-8903 Birmensdorf, Switzerland

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Accepted for publication 17 September 1996.

The Cryphonectria parasitica populations in two 6-year-old European chestnut (Castanea sativa) coppices were investigated in southern Switzerland over a period of 4 years. Occurrence of white isolates indicating an infection with Cryphonectria hypovirus, vegetative compatibility groups (VCGs), hypovirulence conversion capacity, and mating types were used to characterize the populations. Sampling of randomly chosen cankers in the first year yielded 59% white isolates in one and 40% in the other population. The distribution of the VCGs and mating types was similar among white and orange isolates, indicating a homogeneous infection of the two populations by the hypovirus. Fourteen VCGs were found in the first population, 16 VCGs in the second. Altogether, 21 VCGs were determined. The same three VCGs dominated in both populations, comprising more than 60% of all isolates. Several VCGs were represented only by white isolates. Five of the six most common VCGs were clustered in two hypovirulence conversion groups, with almost 100% hypovirus transmission within each cluster. Repeated sampling of the same cankers in 1990, 1992, and 1994 did not reveal an increase of white isolates. The portion of blighted stems rose from 37% to about 60% in both plots within 4 years. In this time, chestnut blight killed 15% and competition an additional 21% of the sprouts. Predominantly, sprouts with low diameters at breast height were killed. The growth rate of new cankers was high in their first year and decreased gradually in the following years. A role of hypovirulence in the decline of disease severity was evident since (i) cankers yielding white isolates grew slower and killed considerably fewer sprouts than cankers with orange isolates; and (ii) the majority of the cankers yielded white isolates at least once during the 4-year observation period.

Additional keywords: biological control, dsRNA, Endothia parasitica, epidemiology.

© 1997 The American Phytopathological Society