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Net Carbon Gain and Growth of Bell Peppers, Capsicum annuum ‘Cubico’, Following Root Infection by Pythium aphanidermatum

April 2005 , Volume 95 , Number  4
Pages  354 - 361

M. Johnstone , S. Chatterton , J. C. Sutton , and B. Grodzinski

First and fourth authors: Department of Plant Agriculture, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada, N1G 2W1; second author: Department of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, BC, Canada, V5A1S6; and third author: Department of Environmental Biology, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada, N1G 2W1

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Accepted for publication 6 December 2004.

The first characterization of alterations in whole-plant photosynthetic rate and carbon assimilation of bell peppers associated with infection by Pythium aphanidermatum is described. Relationships of root disease caused by P. aphanidermatum to whole-plant net carbon exchange rate (NCER), total carbon accumulation, dark respiration rates, water loss, and destructive growth parameters were quantified in vegetative, hydroponically grown pepper plants (Capsicum annuum ‘Cubico’). Inoculated plants displayed lower whole-plant NCER. This translated into a loss of 28% in cumulative C gain during 7 days after inoculation and occurred before visible shoot symptoms developed. Leaf area and dry weight of shoots and roots were significantly decreased and the shoot/root ratio was higher in inoculated plants than in noninoculated plants. We propose that reduced NCER in inoculated plants was mainly due to restricted development of leaf area, because no differences in NCER and evapotranspiration were observed between control and inoculated plants when expressed based on leaf area and root dry mass, respectively. These findings indicate that Pythium infection did not affect the photosynthetic apparatus directly and that the reductions in photosynthesis and growth were not caused by inefficient water transport by diseased roots. These results enlarge on the understanding of physiological responses of host plants to early stages of root disease.

© 2005 The American Phytopathological Society