Aquilegia flabellata (Ranunculaceae), fan columbine, is a perennial herbaceous plant with brilliant blue-purple flowers with white petal tips. It can also be grown for cut flower production. In April of 2008, in several nurseries located near Biella (northern Italy), a leaf blight was observed on 10 to 15% of potted 30-day-old plants grown on a sphagnum peat substrate at 15 to 20°C and relative humidity of 80 to 90%. Semicircular, water-soaked lesions developed on leaves just above the soil line at the leaf-petiole junction and later along the leaf margins. Lesions expanded over several days along the midvein until the entire leaf was destroyed. Blighted leaves turned brown, withered, and abscised. Severely infected plants died. Diseased tissue was disinfested for 10 s in 1% NaOCl, rinsed with sterile water, and plated on potato dextrose agar (PDA) amended with 25 mg/liter streptomycin sulfate. A fungus with the morphological characteristics of Rhizoctonia solani was consistently recovered, then transferred and maintained in pure culture. Ten-day-old mycelium grown on PDA at 22 ± 1°C appeared light brown, rather compact, and had radial growth. Sclerotia were not present. Isolates obtained from affected plants successfully anastomosed with tester isolate AG 4 (AG 4 RT 31, obtained from tobacco plants). Results were consistent with other reports on anastomosis reactions (2). Pairings were also made with tester isolates of AG 1, 2.1, 2.2, 3, 6, 7, 11, and BI with no anastomoses observed between the recovered and tester isolates. The internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region of rDNA was amplified using primers ITS4/ITS6 and sequenced. BLASTn analysis (1) of the 648-bp fragment showed a 100% homology with the sequence of R. solani AG-4 AB000018. The nucleotide sequence has been assigned GenBank Accession No. FJ 534555. For pathogenicity tests, the inoculum of R. solani was prepared by growing the pathogen on PDA for 10 days. Five plants of 30-day-old A. flabellata were grown in 3-liter pots. Inoculum consisting of an aqueous suspension of PDA and mycelium disks (5 g of mycelium + agar per plant) was placed at the collar of plants. Five plants inoculated with water and PDA fragments alone served as control treatments. Plants were maintained in a greenhouse at temperatures between 20 and 24°C. The first symptoms, similar to those observed in the nursery, developed 7 days after the artificial inoculation. R. solani was consistently reisolated from infected leaves and stems. Control plants remained healthy. The pathogenicity test was carried out twice with similar results. The presence of R. solani AG1-IB on A. flabellata has been reported in Japan (4), while in the United States, Rhizoctonia sp. is described on Aquilegia sp. (3). This is, to our knowledge, the first report of leaf blight of A. flabellata caused by R. solani in Italy as well as in Europe.
References: (1) S. F. Altschul et al. Nucleic Acids Res. 25:3389, 1997. (2) D. E. Carling. Grouping in Rhizoctonia solani by hyphal anastomosis reactions. In: Rhizoctonia Species: Taxonomy, Molecular Biology, Ecology, Pathology and Disease Control. Kluwer Academic Publishers, The Netherlands, 1996. (3) D. F. Farr et al. Fungi on Plants and Products in the United States. The American Phytopathological Society, St Paul, MN, 1989. (4) E. Imaizumi et al. J. Gen. Plant Pathol. 66:210, 2000.