Daphne odora is becoming popular in gardens because of its variegated foliage and fragrant flowers in late winter and early spring. During October of 2008 in a commercial nursery near Maggiore Lake (Verbano-Cusio-Ossola Province) in northwestern Italy, plants of D. odora showed extensive chlorosis and root rot. Diseased plants eventually wilted and died, dropping leaves in some cases. Most frequently, wilted leaves persisted on stems. At the soil level, dark brown-to-black water-soaked lesions that coalesced often girdled the stem. All of the crown and root system was affected. Disease was widespread and severe with 70% of 2,500 potted plants being affected. A Phytophthora-like organism was isolated consistently on a medium selective for oomycetes (4) after disinfestation of lower stem and root pieces of D. odora for 1 min in a solution containing 1% NaOCl. Tissue fragments of 1 mm2 were excised from the margins of the lesions and plated. The pathogen was identified based on morphological and physiological features as Phytophthora nicotianae (= P. parasitica) (2). Sporangia were produced for identification by growing a pure culture in sterilized soil extract solution at neutral pH (obtained by shaking and then centrifuging 300 g of soil in 1 liter of distilled water). They were spherical to ovoid, papillate, and measured 39.2 to 54.5 × 31.7 to 41.7 μm (average 44.8 × 34.5 μm). Papillae measured 2.4 to 4.9 μm (average 3.7 μm). Chlamydospores were spherical with a diameter ranging from 15.8 to 36.1 μm (average 25.4 μm). The internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region of rDNA of a single isolate was amplified using primers ITS4/ITS6 and sequenced. BLAST analysis (1) of the 804-bp segment showed a 100% homology with the sequence of P. nicotianae EF140988. The nucleotide sequence has been assigned GenBank No. FJ843100. Pathogenicity of two isolates obtained from infected plants was confirmed by inoculating 12-month-old plants of D. odora. Both isolates were grown for 15 days on a mixture of 70:30 wheat/hemp kernels and then 80 g/liter of the inoculum was mixed into a substrate containing sphagnum peat moss/pumice/pine bark/clay (50:20:20:10 vol/vol). One plant per 3-liter pot was transplanted into the substrate and constituted the experimental unit. Three replicates were used for each isolate and noninoculated control treatment; the trial was repeated once. All plants were kept in a greenhouse at temperatures from 20 to 25°C. Plants inoculated with isolate no. 1 developed symptoms of chlorosis and root rot within 14 days and then a wilt rapidly followed. Isolate no. 2 was less aggressive causing the same symptoms within 20 days. Control plants remained symptomless. P. nicotianae consistently was reisolated from inoculated plants. Previously, P. nicotianae (= P. parasitica) has been reported in several states of the United States on D. odora (3). To our knowledge, this is the first report of P. nicotianae on D. odora in Italy. The economic importance of the disease is low because of the limited number of farms that grow this crop in Italy, although spread could increase as the popularity of plantings expand.
References: (1) S. F. Altschul et al. Nucleic Acids Res. 25:3389, 1997 (2) D. C. Erwin and O. K. Ribeiro. Phytophthora Diseases Worldwide. The American Phytopathological Society, St Paul, MN, 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) H. Masago et al. Phytopathology, 67:425, 1977.