A. A. dos
F. C. O.
F. M. P.
Embrapa Agroindústria Tropical, Caixa Postal 3761, CEP 60511-110, Fortaleza, CE, Brazil
Cashew nut (Anacardium occidentale) is one of the most important cash crops of northeastern Brazil. A new disease, named here as black branch dieback, caused by Lasiodiplodia theobromae, was observed causing serious damage on as many as 30% of the trees in some orchards in both coastal and inland semiarid cashew-growing areas of Ceará and Piauí states of Brazil, respectively. The disease symptoms are first observed as darkened, elongated lesions on stems near the branch apexes of herbaceous tissues. Gum exudation is common from lesions, which expand rapidly to affect the entire branch, leading to branch death. Diseased plants were collected, and L. theobromae was consistently isolated from canker tissues. Fresh mycelial disks of the fungus were used for artificial inoculation of healthy plants. Shoots of young cashew plants were inoculated on the apex by inserting a 3-mm plug taken from actively growing colonies on potato dextrose agar into an incision made with a sterile scalpel. Agar plugs with no mycelium were placed into incised plant shoots to serve as controls. Plants were incubated in a greenhouse at 28°C. Symptoms developed within 15 days after inoculation. Artificially inoculated plants showed symptoms similar to those that were naturally infected. L. theobromae was consistently reisolated from inoculated plants. The disease seems to occur throughout the year, but it spreads faster during the rainy season. A contagious disease pattern within the orchard was observed with a decreasing gradient from the orchard perimeter to the interior of the field, suggesting an external source of primary inoculum. All improved dwarf cashew clones were susceptible, but the newly released clone END-189 was the most susceptible. Black branch dieback may reduce tree growth, nut yield, and eventually cause plant death. Plant susceptibility is not related to its age however; only herbaceous tissues are vulnerable to natural infection. A similar disease on floral shoots of cashew caused by L. theobromae was reported by Olunloyo and Esuruoso in Nigeria (1). To our knowledge, this is the first report of L. theobromae causing branch dieback in cashew orchards in Brazil.
Reference: (1) O. A. Olunloyo and O. F. Esuruoso. Plant Dis. 59:176, 1975.