M. M. Abang,
S. Ahmed, and
S. Murad, ICARDA, Aleppo, Syria;
M. I. Chilvers and
T. L. Peever, Washington State University, Pullman; and
H.-J. Schroers, Agricultural Institute of Slovenia, Ljubljana, Slovenia
In 2007 and 2008, disease symptoms were observed on four cultivars of chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.), including two of the most popular cultivars grown in Syria (Ghab 3 and Ghab 4), in a replicated on-farm trial conducted in the fertile Al Ghab Plains. Affected plants exhibited chlorosis of the foliage, vascular discoloration, and death. In both years, plant mortality reached 100% in plots of cvs. ICC 12004, Ghab 3, and Ghab 4, but only 60% in plots of cv. ILC 97-706. Five monosporic isolates obtained from surface-disinfested stems and roots were identified morphologically. All micromorphological characteristics indicated that the isolated fungi fit the description of Clonostachys rhizophaga Schroers (1). Wilting of chickpea was widespread in the area, and fungal isolations from a random sample of diseased plants in neighboring farmers' fields revealed the presence of C. rhizophaga. In culture, isolates formed dimorphic, Verticillium-like (primary) or penicillate (secondary) conidiophores and ovoidal to elongate, slightly curved or asymmetrical, 5 to 9 μm long and 2.5 to 3.5 μm wide conidia showing a slightly laterally displaced hilum. The identification of the five isolates as C. rhizophaga was supported by sequencing approximately 600 bp of the β-tubulin gene (tub2). Two representative sequences have been deposited under GenBank, Accession No. FJ593882 for strain CBS 124507 and No. FJ593883 for CBS 124511. Both were 100% similar to the sequence of C. rhizophaga strain CBS 361.77 (GenBank Accession No. AF358158) but differed by a deletion of 2 nucleotides relative to the ex-type strain of C. rhizophaga, CBS 202.37 (GenBank Accession No. AF358156). Two methods were used to inoculate plants and complete Koch's postulates. Method 1 used a 10-mm-diameter mycelial plug to inoculate healthy 3-day-old seedlings grown on 40 ml of Hoagland nutrient agar medium in a glass tube (one seedling per tube). The plug was placed mycelial-side down on the surface of the medium, and the fungus subsequently colonized the medium and penetrated the plant roots. Method 2 involved mixing autoclaved seed that had been colonized by each isolate with sterilized soil (1:12 vol/vol) prior to transplanting healthy seedlings into the soil mix. Thirty plants of each cultivar were tested per isolate per method, and controls received sterile agar plugs or autoclaved chickpea seed only. Irrespective of inoculation method, all five isolates caused wilt and plant death of all cultivars within 15 days (method 1) or 2 months (method 2) postinoculation. Symptoms were similar to those originally observed in the field and controls remained healthy. C. rhizophaga was recovered from all affected plants. To our knowledge, this is the first report of C. rhizophaga as a pathogen of chickpea. In an earlier report, C. rhizophaga (as Verticillium rhizophagum Tehon & Jacobs, nom. invalid.) was identified as the causal agent of a disastrous disease of Ulmus americana in Ohio (2). C. rhizophaga has been reported from Chile, Ecuador, the United States, and Switzerland (1).
References: (1) H.-J. Schroers. Stud. Mycol. 46:85, 2001. (2) L.-R. Tehon and H. L. Jacobs. Bull. Davey Tree Expert Company, Kent, OH. 6:3, 1936.