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Presence of Colletotrichum acutatum Causing Leaf Spot on Azalea japonica in Italy

May 2004 , Volume 88 , Number  5
Pages  572.1 - 572.1

A. Garibaldi and D. Bertetti , DIVAPRA—Patologia vegetale, Via Leonardo da Vinci 44, 10095 Grugliasco, Italy ; O. Vinnere , Department of Molecular Evolution at Evolutionary Biology Center, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden ; and M. L. Gullino , DIVAPRA—Patologia vegetale, Via Leonardo da Vinci 44, 10095 Grugliasco, Italy

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Accepted for publication 7 March 2004.

Rhododendron cultivation has a long history in northern Italy where a wide selection of varieties and hybrids are grown. In the fall of 2002, a previously unknown disease was observed on Azalea japonica cv. Palestrina in several commercial farms in the Province of Verbania. Leaves showed irregular necrotic areas that were 1 mm in diameter. Lesions were dark brown to black and were surrounded by a chlorotic halo. Eventually, lesions coalesced, forming large irregular spots. Heavily infected leaves fell prematurely, resulting in severe defoliation. On the infected leaves, acervuli were present from which cylindrical tapered conidia measuring 4.8 to 7.2 × 11.0 to 22.8 μm at one end were released. Fifty conidia per isolate were measured. Fungus identified as Colletotrichum acutatum was consistently recovered from infected leaves, disinfested in 1% NaOCl for 1 min, and plated on potato dextrose agar amended with 100 mg/l of streptomycin sulfate. Pathogenicity of three fungal isolates was confirmed by inoculating healthy A. japonica (cvs. Palestrina and Snow) plants grown in plastic pots (18-cm diameter, 3 liters). Plants (five per treatment) were sprayed with a conidial suspension (1 × 106 conidia per ml) of the three isolates of C. acutatum. Noninoculated plants served as a control. Inoculated and control plants were covered with plastic bags to maintain high relative humidity conditions. All plants were maintained in growth chambers at 20 ± 1°C (12 h per day of fluorescent light). Six days after the artificial inoculation, plants developed typical symptoms on the leaves. C. acutatum was consistently reisolated from infected plants. The pathogenicity test was carried out twice. Sequencing of the internal transcribed spacer region of the rDNA and a portion of the β-tubulin gene were performed, and the obtained sequences were compared with those available in GenBank. Identification of the fungus as C. acutatum, therefore was confirmed. To our knowledge, this is the first report of the presence of C. acutatum on A. japonica in Italy. Although observed presently only in a few nurseries, the disease has the potential to spread, becoming more relevant in an area where rhododendron cultivation is economically important. Anthracnose on rhododendron has already been described in several countries (1,2).

References: (1) D. F. Farr et al. Fungi on Plants and Plant Products in the United States. The American Phytopathological Society, St Paul, MN, 1989. (2) O. Vinnere et al. Mycol. Res. 106:60, 2002.

© 2004 The American Phytopathological Society