S. Agarwal, and
J. Sorochan, Plant Sciences Department, University of Tennessee, 2431 Joe Johnson Drive, Knoxville 37996-4561;
B. H. Ownley and
K. D. Gwinn, Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, University of Tennessee, 2431 Joe Johnson Drive, Knoxville 37996-4561; and
L. A. Castlebury, USDA ARS Systematic Mycology and Microbiology Laboratory, Room 304, Bldg 011A, BARC-West 10300 Baltimore Ave., Beltsville, MD 20705-2350.
In the spring of 2007, switchgrass accessions and cultivars Alamo, Kanlow, SL-93-2001, and NSL 2001-1 (lowland), Blackwell (upland), and Grenville, Falcon, and Miami (unknown ploidy levels) were sown at the East Tennessee Research and Extension Center in Knoxville for evaluation and controlled hybridizations. In July and August of 2007, uredinia were observed primarily on the upper leaf surfaces, and to a lesser extent on the undersides of leaves, of switchgrass cvs. Alamo, Blackwell, Grenville, Falcon, Kanlow, and Miami. Uredinia were observed on all cultivars and accessions in 2008. Dimensions of spores are reported as mean ± standard deviation. Uredinia were epiphyllous, adaxial, caulicolous, oblong, and the color of cinnamon brown. Urediniospores were globose to broadly ellipsoid, 26.0 ± 3.0 × 23.2 ± 2.4 μm, with a wall that was cinnamon brown, 1.5 to 2.0 μm thick, finely echinulate with three to four equatorial pores, corresponding to Puccinia emaculata Schw. (3). Abundant teliospores were isolated from Grenville, Falcon, and Blackwell, with fewer teliospores isolated from Alamo. Telia were epiphyllous, adaxial, and caulicolous, densely crowded to scattered, oblong, and dark brown to black. Teliospores were dark brown, two-celled, ellipsoid to oblong, 33.6 ± 4.8 μm long with an apical cell width of 17.5 ± 1.2 μm and basal cell width of 15.9 ± 2.5 μm. Teliospore walls were 1.5 to 2.0 μm wide at the sides and 4 to 6 μm apically. Pedicels were brown or colorless and up to approximately one length of the teliospore, 28.5 ± 7.4 μm. Teliospore morphology confirmed the identification of this rust as P. emaculata (3), which has been reported to infect upland and lowland populations of switchgrass (2). A 2,109-bp fragment containing the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) 1, 5.8S, ITS 2, and D1/D2 region of the large subunit ribosomal DNA was sequenced for a specimen on ‘Falcon’ (GenBank Accession No. EU915294 and BPI No. 878722) from two overlapping PCR fragments amplified with primers PRITS1F (L. A. Castlebury, unpublished data) and ITS4B (1) for one fragment and Rust5.8SF (L. A. Castlebury, unpublished data) and LR7 (4) for the second fragment. No sequences of P. emaculata were available for comparison; however, BLAST searches of the ITS resulted in hits to P. asparagi DC (527 of 576, 91%) and P. andropogonis Schw. (523 of 568, 92%) placing this fungus in the genus Puccinia Pers. The alternate hosts of this rust are species of the Euphorbiaceae (2,3), which are ubiquitous in this area although the aecial stage has not been observed. To our knowledge, this is the first report of P. emaculata on switchgrass in Tennessee. Given the highly susceptible response of certain varieties of switchgrass to this rust in field plots, reduction in total biomass in large acreages is likely and long-standing fields of this perennial grass will compound the problem.
References: (1) M. Gardes and T. D. Bruns. Mol. Ecol. 2:113, 1993. (2) D. M. Gustafson et al. Crop Sci. 43:755, 2003. (3) P. Ramachar and G. Cummins. Mycopathol. Mycol. Appl. 25:7, 1965. (4) R. Vilgalys and M. Hester. J. Bacteriol. 172:4238, 1990.