Department of Plant Pathology, University of California-Davis, 1636 East Alisal Street, Salinas 93905
To understand the geographical distribution of lettuce drop incidence and the structure of Sclerotinia minor and S. sclerotiorum populations, commercial lettuce fields were surveyed in the Salinas, San Joaquin, and Santa Maria Valleys in California. Lettuce drop incidence, pathogen species, and mycelial compatibility groups (MCGs) were determined and analyzed using geostatistic and geographical information system tools. Lettuce drop incidence was lowest in the San Joaquin Valley, and not significantly different between the other two valleys. Semivariogram analysis revealed that lettuce drop incidence was not spatially correlated between different fields in the Salinas Valley, suggesting negligible field-to-field spread or influence of inoculum in one field on other fields. Lettuce drop incidence was significantly lower in fields with a surface drip system than in fields with furrow or sprinkler irrigation systems, suggesting that the surface drip system can be a potential management measure for reducing lettuce drop. In the San Joaquin Valley, S. sclerotiorum was the prevalent species, causing drop in 63.5% of the fields, whereas S. minor also was identified in 25.4% of the fields. In contrast, in the Salinas Valley, S. minor was the dominant species (76.1%) whereas S sclerotiorum only observed in only 13.6% fields, in which only a few plants were infected by S. sclerotiorum. In the Santa Maria Valley, both species frequently were identified, with S. minor being slightly more common. Although many MCGs were identified in S. minor, most of them consisted of only one or two isolates. In all, ≈91.4% of the isolates belonged to four MCGs. Among them, MCG-1 was the most prevalent group in all three valleys, accounting for 49.8% of total isolates. It was distributed all over the surveyed areas, whereas other MCGs were distributed more or less locally. Populations of S. sclerotiorum exhibited greater diversity, with 89 isolates collected from the Salinas and San Joaquin Valleys belonging to 37 different MCGs. Among them, the most recurrent MCG-A contained 16 isolates, and 30 MCGs contained only 1 isolate each. Many MCGs occurred within only one or a part of the two valleys. Potential reasons for this abundant diversity are discussed.