Professor, Department of Plant Pathology, Throckmorton Plant Sciences Center, Kansas State University, Manhattan 66506-5502
Pythium spp. have been reported to reduce stands and cause stalk rot of grain sorghum. Evidence is presented that it also can cause a serious seed and root rot in the field under a continuous grain sorghum production system. Experiments were conducted for 4 years in a field that had been cropped continuously to grain sorghum for at least 10 years. Effects of seed treatments with captan and metalaxyl on plant stands, early to mid-season plant vigor, and grain yields were evaluated. In five field experiments, seed treatment with metalaxyl (73 g a.i./100 kg) increased grain yields by an average of 24.0% compared with nontreated seed. In three out of four field experiments, seed treatment with metalaxyl increased grain yields by an average of 13.1% above seed treated with captan (73 g a.i./100 kg). The yield increases could not always be explained in terms of differences among treatments in plant stands or in visual estimates of the amount of top growth 26 to 72 days after sowing. Apparently, the Pythium sp. causes a chronic root and seed rot that has a significant negative effect on grain production without necessarily affecting stands or early to mid-season growth. P. ultimum var. ultimum was the fungus most commonly isolated from roots and seeds collected from the field. Tests for Koch's postulates conducted in a greenhouse verified it as the causal organism. In the greenhouse, treatment with metalaxyl protected seeds and roots from attack by P. ultimum var. ultimum for at least 28 days after planting.