Departamento de Fitopatologia, Universidade Federal de Viçosa, MG, Brazil.
Cercospora leaf spot is a destructive fungal disease that has become a threat to the coffee industry in Brazil. Nevertheless, little is known about populations of its causal agent, Cercospora coffeicola. We evaluated the potential of using nitrogen-nonutilizing (nit) mutants and vegetative compatibility groups (VCGs) to characterize the genetic variability of the C. coffeicola population associated with coffee plantings in Minas Gerais state (MG), Brazil. A total of 90 monosporic isolates were obtained from samples collected according to a hierarchical sampling scheme: (i) state geographical regions (Sul, Mata, and Triângulo), and (ii) production systems (conventional and organic). Nit mutants were obtained and 28 VCGs were identified. The 10 largest VCGs included 72.31% of all isolates, whereas each of the remaining 18 VCGs included 1.54% of the isolates. Isolates of the largest VCGs were found in the three regions sampled. Based on the frequencies of VCGs at each sampled level, we estimated the Shannon diversity index, as well as its richness and evenness components. Genetic variability was high at all hierarchical levels, and a high number of VCGs was found in populations of C. coffeicola associated with both conventional and organic coffee plantings.