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Environmental Factors Affecting the Release and Dispersal of Ascospores of Mycosphaerella citri

August 2003 , Volume 93 , Number  8
Pages  1,031 - 1,036

S. N. Mondal , T. R. Gottwald , and L. W. Timmer

First and third authors: University of Florida, Citrus Research and Education Center, and Department of Plant Pathology, 700 Experiment Station Road, Lake Alfred 33850; and second author: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Horticultural Research Laboratory, Ft. Pierce, FL 34945

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Accepted for publication 21 March 2003.

Greasy spot, caused by Mycosphaerella citri, produces a leaf spot disease affecting all citrus species in Florida and the Caribbean Basin. M. citri produces pseudothecia and ascospores, which are considered the principal source of inoculum, in decomposing leaves on the grove floor. In studies using a computer-controlled environmental chamber, a single rain event triggered release of most mature ascospores beginning 30 to 60 min after the rain event. Additional rain events did not bring about further release. High relative humidity without rain triggered release of low numbers of ascospores, but vibration and red/infrared irradiation had little or no effect on ascospore release. After three to four cycles of wetting and drying of leaves, all pseudothecia had matured and released their ascospores. In the field, ascospores were detectable starting about 2 h after the beginning of a rain or irrigation and most ascospores were released within 16 h. Ascospore release was greatest following rain events and somewhat less following irrigations, and low numbers of ascospores were detectable on days without precipitation. Ascospore numbers declined linearly with horizontal distance from the source and as a function of the logarithm of ascospore numbers with vertical distance. Low numbers of ascospores were detected 7.5 m above the ground and 90 m downwind from the grove. Ascospore release can be advanced by irrigating frequently during dry, nonconducive conditions to stimulate ascospore release when environmental conditions are unfavorable for infection, but the eventual effects on disease severity are uncertain.

© 2003 The American Phytopathological Society