Root rot caused by Phytophthora cinnamomi Rands is generally recognized to be the most important disease of avocado (Persea americana Miller) wherever this tropical fruit tree is grown (3). The disease was first found in Italy in the spring of 1998. Eight-year-old trees, with symptoms ranging from initial to severe, were observed in an experimental field near Rocca di Caprileone, in Sicily. Few trees showed symptoms of both root rot and collar rot. Infected trees were of 13 commercial cultivars. Trees were grafted on two different rootstocks: Hass seedlings and G6 seedlings. G6 is a selection reported to have some field resistance to P. cinnamomi infections (2). However, no correlation was observed between symptom severity and rootstock. P. cinnamomi was isolated on BNPRAH selective medium (4) from trunk bark, feeder roots, and rhizosphere soil of diseased trees, and from roots of symptomless trees. The isolates, identified primarily on the basis of morphological and cultural characteristics, formed rosaceous colonies on potato dextrose agar (PDA) and on corn meal agar (CMA) coralloid-type mycelium, with abundant hyphal swellings, which were typically spherical and in clusters. Chlamydospores were either terminal or intercalary, and often occurred in characteristic grapelike clusters. Sporangia, which were produced in saline solution (1), were broadly ellipsoidal or ovoid, persistent, non-papillate and proliferous. The identification was confirmed by the electrophoresis of mycelial proteins on polyacrylamide slab gel. The electrophoretic patterns of total soluble proteins and eight isozymes (AKP [alkaline phosphatase], EST [esterase], FUM [fumarase], GLC [NAD-glucose dehydrogenase], G6PD [glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase], LDH [lactate dehydrogenase], MDH [malate dehydrogenase], and SOD [superoxide dismutase]) of the isolates from avocado were identical to those of two strains of P. cinnamomi, used as reference (isolate 70473 from International Mycological Institute, U.K., and an isolate from myrtle from the Institute of Plant Pathology, University of Catania, Italy). Conversely, the electrophoretic phenotype of the P. cinnamomi isolates from avocado was clearly distinct from those of reference strains of eight other species included in Waterhouse's taxonomic group VI. Pairings with isolates of a known mating type of P. cinnamomi, P. cryptogea, and P. drechsleri revealed that all the isolates from avocado were A2 mating type. It is possible that P. cinnamomi had been introduced into the experimental field on infected symptomless nursery trees. In Italy, root rot caused by P. cinnamomi could have a significant impact on commercial avocado plantings extending over about 20 ha. Moreover, this polyphagous pathogen may be a threat to other crops as well as to forest trees.
References: (1) D. W. Chen and G. A. Zentmyer. Mycologia 62:397, 1970. (2) M. D. Coffey. Plant Dis. 71:1046, 1987. (3) D. C. Erwin and O. K. Ribeiro. 1996. Phytophthora Diseases Worldwide. American Phytopathological Society, St. Paul, MN. (4) H. Masago et al. Phytopathology 67:425, 1977.