Web (aerial) blight was observed in field plots of Catharanthus roseus (L.) G. Don (Madagascar periwinkle) during three consecutive summers at the Burden Research Center in Baton Rouge. Leaf spots formed first, followed by a general blighting of leaves and stems that resulted in circular areas of dead plants in the plots. Dead leaves were matted together but remained attached to plants. Mycelia, and occasionally small, brown sclerotia (1 to 3 mm) were observed on blighted foliage. During the first year, only prostrate-growing cultivars belonging to the Mediterranean series of C. roseus were infected, but in 2001 and 2002 upright-growing cultivars as well as those with prostrate growth habit became infected. The disease occurred in July and August during periods of hot, humid, and rainy weather. Among 52 cultivars in the 2001 trial, only ‘Tropicana Pink’, ‘Tropicana Rose’ and ‘Stardust Orchid’ were disease free. A Rhizoctonia sp. was consistently isolated from diseased plants and further characterized as R. solani Kühn AG-1 based on its multinucleate cells and hyphal anastomosis with several AG-1 tester isolates. On potato dextrose agar, colonies displayed morphologies with characteristics of AG-1 IA and AG-1 IB, therefore, identification to AG subgroup was not made. Mature colonies ranged from light tan to brown and produced sclerotia, individually or in clumps, at the edge of the culture dish. Pathogenicity tests were performed by placing agar blocks, taken from the margins of 7-day-old cultures, on stems of eight healthy Madagascar periwinkle plants (15 to 20 cm tall). Inoculated and noninoculated control plants were held in a dew chamber at 26°C for 3 days and then moved to a greenhouse. Leaves on all inoculated plants developed water-soaked spots that turned dark brown or black prior to death, whereas noninoculated plants remained healthy. R. solani was reisolated from inoculated plants and its cultural characteristics were similar to those of the original isolate. Web blight occurs in Louisiana on Madagascar periwinkle used as landscape bedding plants, but has not been observed on container-grown plants. Web blight caused by R. solani AG-1 was previously reported on Madagascar periwinkle from Alabama (1). R. solani AG-1 has been reported previously as causing web blight in Louisiana on rosemary (2), dianthus (4), and verbena (3). To our knowledge, this is the first report of web blight on Madagascar periwinkle (C. roseus) in Louisiana.
References: (1) A. K. Hagan and J. M. Mullen. Plant Dis. 77:1169, 1993. (2) G. E. Holcomb. Plant Dis. 76:859, 1992. (3) G. E. Holcomb and D. E. Carling. Plant Dis. 84:492, 2000. (4) G. E. Holcomb and D. E. Carling. Plant Dis. 84:1344, 2000.