Crotalaria juncea L. (Fabaceae), commonly known as sunn hemp, is a subtropical annual legume grown in the United States as a cover crop that improves soil quality, provides nitrogen, suppresses weeds and nematodes, and adds organic matter to soils. In Florida, sunn hemp is a warm- and short-season cover crop that is typically planted in June and cut and incorporated into soil in September. In 2008, powdery mildew was observed on sunn hemp in a research field in Hastings, FL. This disease is important because it has the potential to impact the health and quality of sunn hemp, and this particular powdery mildew can infect cucurbits that are grown in north Florida from late summer to fall. Fungal growth appeared as typical white, powdery mildew colonies initially seen on upper leaf surfaces, especially along the midvein of infected leaves, but moving to undersides as disease progressed; petioles and floral parts were disease free. As disease progressed, colonies enlarged and coalesced to cover the entire leaf surface; heavily infected leaves senesced and abscised. Infection was primarily seen on the lower, more mature leaves of plants and not on the top 0.6 m (2 feet) of the plant. Mycelia produced white accumulations of conidiophores and conidia. Hyphae were superficial with papillate appressoria and produced conidiophores with cylindrical foot cells that measured 48.5 × 10.0 μm (mean of 100 foot cell measurements) and short chains of conidia. Conidia were hyaline, short-cylindrical to ovoid, lacked fibrosin bodies, borne in chains, had sinuate edge lines with other immature conidia, and measured 22.5 to 40.0 (mean = 29.85 μm) × 12.5 to 20.0 μm (mean = 15.55 μm). The teleomorph was not observed. The nuclear rDNA internal transcribed spacer (ITS) regions were amplified by PCR, using universal primers ITS1 and ITS4, and sequenced (GenBank Accession No. FJ479803). On the basis of morphological characteristics of the asexual, imperfect state that are consistent with published reports of Golovinomyces cichoracearum (2) and ITS sequence data that indicated 100% homology with G. cichoracearum from Helianthus annus (GenBank Accession No. AB077679), this powdery mildew was identified as caused by G. cichoracearum of the classification Golovinomyces Clade III (3). Pathogenicity was confirmed by gently pressing disease leaves onto leaves of healthy C. juncea plants. Inoculated plants were placed into plastic bags containing moist paper towels to maintain high humidity. The temperature was maintained at 24°C, and after 2 days, powdery mildew colonies developed in a manner consistent with symptoms observed under field conditions. A powdery mildew on Crotalaria was previously identified as caused by Microsphaera diffusa Cooke & Peck (1). To our knowledge, this is the first report of G. cichoracearum causing powdery mildew on C. juncea.
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) D. A. Glawe et al. Online publication. doi: 10.1094/PHP-2006-0405-01-BR. Plant Health Progress, 2006. (3) S. Takamatsu et al. Mycol. Res. 110:1093, 2006.