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First Report of Brown Root Rot of Alfalfa Caused by Phoma sclerotioides in Wisconsin

July 2004 , Volume 88 , Number  7
Pages  769.3 - 769.3

R. C. Larsen , USDA-ARS, Prosser, WA 99350 ; C. R. Grau , Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 53706 ; G. J. Vandemark and T. J. Hughes , USDA-ARS, Prosser, WA 99350 ; and B. D. Hudelson , Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 53706

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Accepted for publication 14 May 2004.

Brown root rot (BRR) has been associated with winterkill of alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) in the temperate regions of North America where winters are severe (1). Although suspected, BRR has not been associated with winterkill of alfalfa in the upper Midwestern United States. Alfalfa plants exhibiting symptoms resembling those induced by the causal agent Phoma sclerotioides G. Preuss ex Sacc. were collected from fields in Marinette, Pierce, and Marathon counties in Wisconsin during the spring and early summer of 2003. Symptoms included stunting and decline in 1- to 3-year-old plants that were slow to break dormancy in the early spring. Roots frequently exhibited dark brown lesions or were entirely decayed. Advanced lesions often formed dark bands around the circumference of tap and secondary roots. Beaked pycnidial structures typical of P. sclerotioides were also observed on many samples with advanced lesions. Plants with symptoms of BRR were also observed in Clark, Langlade, Lincoln, Oconto, Shawno, Taylor, and Wood counties. Several lesion areas of tissue on the tap and lateral roots of each sample were excised with a sterile scalpel. Total DNA was extracted using the Fast DNA kit (Bio 101, Carlsbad, CA). In addition, soil samples were collected in the root rhizosphere of symptomatic plants from four fields in two counties. Soil DNA was extracted with the Ultra-Clean DNA soil extraction kit (Mo Bio, Solana Beach, CA). DNA extractions were diluted 1:10 or 1:50, and samples were evaluated for the presence of P. sclerotioides using polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based sequence-characterized amplified region (SCAR) markers according to the method described previously (4). Amplicons of the expected size (499 bp) were detected from alfalfa roots sampled from Marathon (4 of 4), Marinette (4 of 5), and Pierce (4 of 4) counties but not in roots from healthy controls produced in the greenhouse at Prosser, WA. PCR amplicons were also produced from all field soil samples in Marathon and Marinette counties. Proof of pathogenicity via Koch's postulates for this host-pathogen system was not attempted because of the extensive time period required (1). However, characteristic beaked pycnidia were present, and the pathogen was identified using PCR on DNA from roots symptomatic of BRR. Detection of BRR has been limited in the United States to Wyoming (2), but has been thought to occur in other states with severe winters (3). To our knowledge, this is the first report of P. sclerotioides in Wisconsin.

References: (1) J. G. N. Davidson. Brown root rot. Pages 29--31 in: Compendium of Alfalfa Diseases. 2nd ed. D. L. Stuteville and D. C. Erwin, eds. The American Phytopathological Society, St. Paul, MN, 1990. (2) F. A. Gray et al. Pages 27--28 in: Proc. 10th Western Alfalfa Improv. Conf., 1997. (3) C. R. Hollingsworth et al. Can. J Plant Pathol. 25:215, 2003. (4) R. C. Larsen et al. Plant Dis. 86:928, 2002.

© 2004 The American Phytopathological Society