Golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii Hildm.) is the most common landscape cactus in southern Italy. During 2000, 2001, and 2002, a basal stem rot of golden barrel cactus was observed in several plastichouses located in eastern Sicily with disease levels of nearly 100% on young plants (up to 15 cm in diameter). On the basal crown area, the plants showed pale brown or yellow-orange, sunken lesions bordered by a reddish orange strip up to 1 mm wide. A water-soaked rot or white mycelium at the soil line was also observed. Thirty pieces (0.5 to 1 cm) from the edge of symptomatic tissues were surface disinfected for 2 min in 0.8% (wt/vol) NaOCl, washed with sterile distilled water (SDW), and placed on potato dextrose agar (PDA). In addition, 20 pieces of affected tissue were ground in 400 μl of SDW (1:3, wt/wt), and the resulting suspensions were streaked by loops on PDA supplemented with 1.1 μl/ml of lactic acid (pH 4.4). A Fusarium sp. was consistently isolated from affected tissue pieces and streaks. Koch's postulates were performed at 25°C by inoculating 24 golden barrel cactus plants in 12-cm-diameter pots (12 plants previously sterile needle wounded) with 10 ml per plant of three suspensions (106 CFU/ml) of three isolates sprayed onto the basal stem. One milliliter per ten g of soil of each suspension was also added in the crown portion of golden barrel cacti. Twelve control cacti (six wounded) were sprayed only with SDW. Further pathogenicity tests were carried out on Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata (Haw.) Moran), devil's tongue barrel cactus (Ferocactus latispinus (Haw.) Britton & Rose), peruvian old man cactus (Espostoa lanata (Kunth) Britton & Rose), and Parodia spp. by inoculating eight plants for each host (four wounded) by placing 9-day-old 6-mm mycelial plugs at the base of the healthy cacti. An equal number of plants (four wounded) was inoculated only with a PDA plug. All cacti were maintained in polyethylene bags (90 to 95% for 72 hr) at 25°C. After 12 to 15 days, all wounded inoculated golden barrel, devil's tongue barrel, and peruvian old man cacti exhibited similar symptoms observed in the plastichouses. Typical symptoms were visible also in nonwounded and inoculated cacti 15 days later. Yellow-orange, tan, sunken, and roughly circular lesions were observed on the wounded and inoculated Thanksgiving and Parodia sp. cacti. Control plants were symptomless. The causal fungus was always reisolated from infected cacti. On the basis of 3-septate macroconidia (27 to 35 μm long × 3 to 4 μm wide [average 31.45 × 3.18 μm]), microconidia aseptate, single or double chlamydospores, and monophialide conidiophores observed on carnation leaf agar, and considering the susceptibility of all other inoculated hosts, the fungus was identified as F. oxysporum Schlechtend. f. sp. opuntiarum (Speg.) (1). To our knowledge, this is the first report of basal stem rot of golden barrel cactus in Italy.
Reference: (1) W. Gerlach. Phytopathol. Z. 74, 197, 1972.