U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Southern Plains Agricultural Research Center, 2765 F&B Road, College Station, TX 77845
Planting the cotton cv. Sure-Grow 747 in cotton seedling disease plots during the 2001 growing season resulted in high levels of preemergence damping-off among the seedlings. Four cotton pathogens, Pythium aphanidermatum, P. ultimum, an unidentified Pythium sp., and Rhizopus oryzae, were isolated from diseased seed embryos and seedlings. Disease incited by the Pythium spp. could be controlled by seed treatment with Metalaxyl, but disease incited by R. oryzae could not. Seed treatment with Metalaxyl in naturally infested field soil was only partially effective; therefore, symptoms in 47% of the diseased seedlings could be attributed to R. oryzae. Susceptibility to disease appeared to be related to release in the spermosphere, by the germinating seeds, of compounds that stimulate pathogen propagule germination, because exudates from seed of the suscept Sure-Grow 747 and extracts from wheat bran induced pathogen germination and growth, whereas exudates from resistant cv. Stoneville 213 did not. However, even Stoneville 213 became susceptible when infested soil was amended with wheat bran. Seed treatment with preparations of Trichoderma virens parent, mutant, and hybrid strains gave effective biological control of preemergence damping-off. Disease control was attributable to metabolism by the biocontrol agent of pathogen germination stimulants released by the seed, because amendment of pathogen-infested soil with the propagule germination stimulants in wheat bran negated the protective effect of the seed treatment.