Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, Auburn University, 209 Life Science, Auburn, AL 36849
Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, Mississippi State University, Box 9877, Mississippi State, 39762
In May 2000, seedling death in grain sorghum (Sorghum bicolor L.) was reported in fields located in the delta region of Mississippi, following a wet planting season when precipitation and relative humidity were 50 and 10.5% greater, respectively, than the 5-year average. Seedlings exhibited various symptoms, including necrosis of the leaf tip and blade, collar rot, root rot, and streaking of the vascular system at the soil line that resulted in plant death. Tissue sections from plants with collar and root rot were plated aseptically on potato dextrose, V8, and cornmeal agars. Pythium ultimum was the only pathogenic fungus isolated and appeared on 63% of tissue sections. Recovered isolates exhibited similar growth and morphology in vitro and were stimulated to produce fruiting structures by the grass leaf-baiting method. Isolates produced primary terminal globose oogonia, 19 μm in diameter. Oospores were aplerotic and approximately 16.4 µm in diameter, with a 2.1-μm-thick wall. Antheridia were monoclinous or diclinous and short-stalked, with 1 to 2 antheridia per oogonium. Zoospores were produced only in sterile water grass blade cultures and were reniform and biciliate, erupting from spherical vesicles in groups of 15 to 30. Pathogenicity tests were conducted in a controlled growth chamber. P. ultimum was increased on sterile common millet seed and incorporated into sterile field soil at an 0.5% (vol/vol) ratio. Noninfested millet seed was incorporated into field soil as a control. Soil was placed in pots, planted with five-grain sorghum seed, and placed in a growth chamber at 5°C, with a 12-h photoperiod. Treatments were replicated five times, and the experiment conducted twice. At 21 days after planting, the inoculated grain sorghum plants developed collar and root rot, with some leaf necrosis, similar to symptoms observed in the field. Symptoms did not develop on the control plants. Reisolations of P. ultimum on corn meal agar and by the grass-baiting method were successful. P. ultimum commonly is in Mississippi soils and is pathogenic to a number of agronomic crops, although it has not been reported previously as a pathogen on grain sorghum in Mississippi.