Department of Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology, Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station, Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, Baton Rouge 70803
Seedling disease, caused primarily by several species of Pythium, is one of the major constraints to water-seeded rice production in Louisiana. The disease, also known as water-mold disease, seed rot, and seedling damping-off, causes stand reductions and growth abnormalities. In severe cases, fields must be replanted, which may result in delayed harvests and reduced yields. To develop more effective disease management tactics including biological control, this study was conducted primarily to determine sites of infection in seeds and seedlings; effect of plant age on susceptibility to P. arrhenomanes, P. myriotylum, and P. dissotocum; and minimum exposure times required for infection and seedling death. In addition, the effect of water depth on seedling disease was investigated. Infection rates of seed embryos were significantly higher than those of endosperms for all three Pythium spp. The development of roots from dry-seeded seedlings was significantly reduced by P. arrhenomanes and P. myriotylum at 5 days after planting compared with that of roots from noninoculated controls. Susceptibility of rice to all three species was sharply reduced within 2 to 6 days after planting, and seedlings were completely resistant at 8 days after planting. There was a steep reduction in emergence through the flood water, relative to the noninoculated control, following 2 to 3 days of exposure to inoculum of P. arrhenomanes and P. myriotylum. In contrast, P. dissotocum was much less virulent and required longer exposure times to cause irreversible seedling damage. Disease incidence was higher when seeds were planted into deeper water, implying that seedlings become resistant after they emerge through the flood water. These results suggest that disease control tactics including flood water management need to be employed for a very short period of time after planting. Also, given that the embryo is the primary site of infection and it is susceptible for only a few days, the disease should be amenable to biological control.