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Fungus Gnat Feeding and Mechanical Wounding Inhibit Pythium aphanidermatum Infection of Geranium Seedlings

December 2009 , Volume 99 , Number  12
Pages  1,421 - 1,428

S. E. Braun, J. P. Sanderson, E. B. Nelson, M. L. Daughtrey, and S. P. Wraight

First and second authors: Department of Entomology, and third and fourth authors: Department of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853-0901; and fifth author: United States Department of Agriculture--Agricultural Research Service, Robert H. Holley Center for Agriculture & Health, Ithaca, NY 14853-2901.

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Accepted for publication 18 July 2009.

A series of laboratory tests were conducted to investigate potential effects of fungus gnat (Bradysia impatiens) feeding damage on susceptibility of geranium seedlings (Pelargonium × hortorum) to infection by the root rot pathogen Pythium aphanidermatum. Effects were compared with those from similar tests in which the seedlings were mechanically wounded by severing the root tip with a scalpel. Assays of geranium seedlings in petri dishes revealed a pronounced negative fungus gnat--Pythium interaction, with exposure to fungus gnat larvae 24 h prior to inoculation with P. aphanidermatum zoospores resulting in up to 47% fewer seedling deaths than would have been expected if the two agents had acted independently. Similar results were observed when seedlings were subjected to mechanical wounding 24 h prior to zoospore inoculation. In contrast, no interaction occurred when seedlings were mechanically wounded immediately prior to inoculation. The degree of plant damage inflicted by the feeding activities of the larval fungus gnats had no significant effect on the combined damage from fungus gnats and Pythium in petri dishes. Ancillary studies showed that Pythium development on V8 agar was not inhibited by the presence of fungus gnat-associated microorganisms, nor were seedlings inoculated with these microbes less susceptible to Pythium infection. The precise mechaism or mechanisms underlying the observed interactions were not elucidated; however, the results strongly suggest that both fungus gnat feeding and mechanical wounding activated systemic defenses that made the seedlings more resistant to Pythium infection.

© 2009 The American Phytopathological Society