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First Report of Sclerotium rolfsii on Common Chickweed in North Carolina

April 2004 , Volume 88 , Number  4
Pages  426.2 - 426.2

J. E. Hollowell and B. B. Shew , Department of Plant Pathology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695

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Accepted for publication 13 January 2004.

Common chickweed (Stellaria media (L.) Cyrillo) is a common weed species found in agricultural fields of northeastern North Carolina. Symptomatic plants of common chickweed were observed during a March 2001 survey of winter annual weed species in Perquimans County, NC. The plants were growing in a harvested peanut field with a known history of southern stem rot caused by Sclerotium rolfsii Sacc. Water-soaked, bleached stems and chlorotic leaves were collected from plants and brought to the laboratory for isolation. Small portions (1 to 2 cm) of symptomatic stems and entire leaves were rinsed with tap water and placed on potato dextrose agar (PDA). Developing colonies were transferred to obtain pure cultures. The rapidly growing cultures had coarse, white mycelium typical of S. rolfsii and produced abundant, small, round, brown sclerotia approximately 2.0 mm in diameter on the surface of the culture. Clamp connections were observed with microscopic examination of mycelia. Pathogenicity of isolates was tested by placing 4-mm-diameter agar plugs of 2-day-old fungal mycelium on stems of three mature, nonsymptomatic chickweed plants. Agar plugs without fungal mycelium were used for the control treatment. Plugs were held in place with self-sticking bandage gauze. Plants were misted with water, enclosed in plastic bags, and incubated on a laboratory counter top at ambient temperature (24°C). Abundant mycelia developed, and water-soaked lesions and necrotic stems were observed. Noninoculated plants remained healthy and free of signs and symptoms during the incubation period. The fungus was reisolated on PDA, and pure cultures of S. rolfsii were obtained. Koch's postulates confirmed common chickweed was a host of S. rolfsii. To our knowledge, this is the first report of common chickweed as a host of S. rolfsii. Crop species commonly used in peanut rotations (corn, small grains, sorghum, and cotton) do not support populations of S. rolfsii. Many dicotyledonous weed species have been reported as hosts of S. rolfsii, but our observation of active disease on a winter weed species was unexpected. Colonization of winter weed, if prevalent, may enhance survival of S. rolfsii between crops of susceptible hosts such as peanut.

© 2004 The American Phytopathological Society