First author: Soybean and Alfalfa Research Laboratory; second author: Weed Science Laboratory; third author: Biocontrol of Plant Diseases Laboratory; and fourth author: Systematic Mycology and Botany Laboratory, USDA, ARS, Beltsville, MD 20705
Dendryphion penicillatum and Pleospora papaveracea were isolated from blighted Papaver somniferum and Papaver bracteatum plants grown in growth chambers and the field in Beltsville, MD. The etiology of the diseases was determined, and the fungi are being investigated as potential mycoherbicides to control the narcotic opium poppy plant. P. papaveracea is known to be a highly destructive seedborne pathogen of Papaver somniferum, causing seedling blight, leaf blight, crown rot, and capsule rot. Single conidia and ascospores were isolated and cultures established from naturally infested seed and diseased foliage and pods of opium poppy from Iran, Colombia, Venezuela, Sweden, India, and the United States (Maryland and Washington). Mycelia and conidia of P. papaveracea and D. penicillatum produced on necrotic leaf tissues appear morphologically similar, and the fungi were previously considered to be anamorph and teleomorph. However, no anamorph/teleomorph connection could be established, and the fungi appear to be distinct taxa. P. papaveracea produced conidia, mature pseudothecia, and chlamydospores in vitro and on infected stems. D. penicillatum produced conidia, microsclerotia, and macronematous conidiophores. Although both fungi were pathogenic to three poppy cultivars, conidial inoculum from P. papaveracea cultures was more virulent than conidial inoculum from D. penicillatum. Eight-week-old plants became necrotic and died 8 days after inoculation with a conidial suspension of P. papaveracea at 2 × 105 spores per ml. Disease severity was significantly enhanced by inoculum formulations that contained corn oil, by higher conidial inoculum concentrations, and by increased wetness periods. Symptoms on plants inoculated with either pathogen included leaf and stem necrosis, stem girdling, stunting, necrotic leaf spots, and foliar and pod blight. Inoculated seedlings exhibited wire stem, damping-off, and root rot. Conidia, and less frequently pseudothecia, of P. papaveracea and conidia of D. penicillatum were produced abundantly on inoculated, necrotic foliage, pods, and seedlings. Cultures from conidia or ascospores reisolated from these tissues consistently produced fungi whose morphologies were typical of the fungus from which the inoculum was derived.