Salvia officinalis L. is cultivated as an aromatic ornamental plant in Italy. In the spring of 2003, rooted cuttings grown in containers in commercial farms near Albenga (northern Italy) had soft and watery stem tissue covered with whitish mycelium at the soil level. Leaves and stems showed necrotic areas of irregular shape and size. As necrosis progressed, infected plants wilted and died. Wilt occurred within a few days on young plants. Because of high plant density, the pathogen spread rapidly within and across containers to infect many rooted cuttings. Sclerotinia sclerotiorum (Lib.) de Bary (2) was consistently recovered from infected stem pieces of Salvia officinalis that were disinfested for 1 min in 1% NaOCl and plated on potato dextrose agar (PDA) amended with 100 ppm of streptomycin sulfate. Sclerotia produced on PDA were ellipsoid and measured 1.4 to 4.2 × 1.1 to 2.1 (average 2.1 × 1.5) mm. Pathogenicity of three isolates obtained from infected plants was confirmed by inoculating 30-day-old plants grown in pots (14-cm diameter). Inoculum of each isolate was 14-day-old cultures of mycelium and sclerotia grown on sterile wheat kernels (300 g) and deionized water (320 ml) in a 1-liter flask at 20 to 25°C. Inoculum (10 g) of each isolate was placed on the soil surface around the base of 10 plants. Ten noninoculated plants served as controls. The inoculation trial was repeated once. All plants were kept in a screenhouse at temperatures ranging between 8 and 31°C and watered as needed. Inoculated plants developed symptoms of leaf yellowing, followed by the appearance of white mycelium within 7 days, and eventually wilted within 12 to 15 days. Control plants remained symptomless. White mycelium and sclerotia developed on infected tissues, and S. sclerotiorum was reisolated from inoculated plants on PDA amended with 100 ppm of streptomycin sulfate. To our knowledge, this is the first report of white mold of Salvia officinalis caused by S. sclerotiorum in Italy. The disease has been observed in Canada (1) as well as Tasmania and New Zealand.
References: (1) G. J. Bolland and R. Hall. Can. J. Plant Pathol. 16:93, 1994. (2) N. F. Buchwald. Den. Kgl. Veterin.er-og Landbohojskoles Aarsskrift, 1949.