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Incidence of Fusarium spp. in Asparagus Spears

August 1997 , Volume 81 , Number  8
Pages  957.2 - 957.2

Cosme Guerrero , E. L. Nigh , Jr. , and M. E. Stanghellini , Department of Plant Pathology, University of Arizona, Tucson 85721 ; and W. Elmer , The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, New Haven 06504

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Accepted for publication 17 May 1997.

Fusarium proliferatum and F. oxysporum have been identified as causal agents of asparagus decline in the field and have been associated with reduction in spear quality (1,2). Our objective was to determine the origin and incidence of spear infection by these fungi during the cropping years 1994 to 1997. From 15 to 40 asparagus samples were randomly selected from the field, packing houses, and retail markets and assayed for Fusarium spp. Collections were made in California, Connecticut, Peru, Mexico, and Australia. The number of samples varied between sampling sites and for the time of harvest season. One Mexican collection site was sampled at the beginning, mid-point, and end of the harvest season to evaluate influence of decreasing carbohydrate levels and increasing temperatures on infection and growth of the fungi. Isolations included sections (5 to 6 cm) from the basal and terminal portions of the spear to evaluate postharvest growth in the spear. Fusarium spp. were recovered from spear samples that included all geographical sampling locations (mean 45%, range 20 to 90%). F. proliferatum was the dominant species isolated consistently from the desert areas regardless of harvest period. The frequency of F. oxysporum isolation ranged from 2 to 32% with no correlation to time or location of sampling. Basal sections were more frequently infected (94%) than terminal portions of the spear (less than 6%). No major differences in the percentage of infected spears were found in collection sites regardless of country sampled. There were differences in the incidence of infection between harvest sample dates. Spears sampled late in the harvest period were 57% more infected than spears of early or mid-season collections. Samples from the same fields, regardless of whether collected directly from the field, from packing sheds, or from the retail market, had higher infection rates later in the harvest season compared with earlier harvests. This may be attributable to warmer temperatures, changes in levels of carbohydrates, or other physiological factors. Spears harvested from the field that were infected with both Fusarium spp. had a greater incidence of infection than spears recovered from packing houses or from retail sources. This supports the theory that the source of spear infection is diseased crowns and not postharvest sources. Isolates from the spears of both Fusarium spp. were found to be pathogenic when challenged to asparagus seedlings.

References: (1) R. G. Grogan and K. A. Kimble. Phytopathology 49:122, 1959. (2) W. Schreuder et al. Plant Dis. 79:177, 1995.

© 1997 The American Phytopathological Society