Orchardgrass or cocksfoot (Dactylis glomerata L.) has been widely cultivated as a forage crop in many provinces of China (1). It is also a native perennial forage grass, which grows at the edge of forests, shrubs, and mountainous grasslands in Xinjiang and Sichuan (2). In September of 2007, signs of choke disease on orchardgrass were observed in a native grassland under birch woodland near Altai City, Xinjiang, China. Stromata, which formed on culms of diseased grass, enclosing the inflorescence and leaf sheath, were 4.5 to 5.5 mm long, smooth or wrinkled, white and later becoming yellowish or yellow, tuberculate, dry, and covered with perithecia. Inflorescences surrounded by fungal stromata were choked and failed to mature, thus restricting seed production. Pure cultures were obtained by directly scraping stromata from the surface and incubating it on antibiotic potato dextrose agar (PDA). The colonies were cottony, white on the upper surface, and white to yellow on the reverse. The growth rate was 13 to 21 mm per week at 25°C on PDA. Conidia were hyaline, lunate to reniform, and measured 4.1 ± 0.5 × 2.2 ± 0.5 μm. They accumulated in small globose heads at the tips of conidiogenous cells and were produced singly on conidiophores of 13 to 33 μm long and 2.7 to 4.1 μm wide at the base. Internal transcribed spacer (ITS) sequence by BLAST search had 99% similarity with an Epichloë typhina isolate of orchardgrass in Spain (GenBank Accession No. AM262420.1). Cultural characteristics, microscopic examination, and phylogenetic analysis showed that this choke disease on D. glomerata was caused by the fungus E. typhina (Pers.) Tul. & C. Tul. as described by White (4). To our knowledge, this is the first report of E. typhina causing choke disease on orchardgrass in China. The pathogen has been identified in France, England, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States (3,4) with the same symptoms as those reported here. In 1997, choke disease was found in 70% of the fields in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, with disease incidences ranging from 0.05 to 28%. It was predicted to increase and spread under the prevailing climatic conditions (3). This new disease report is to provide observational and diagnostic information to help with recognition and prevention of disease spread in orchardgrass cultivation regions of China.
References: (1) X. R. Chao et al. Shandong Agric. Sci. 1:7, 2005. (2) S. X. Jia, ed. China Forage Plant Flora. China Agriculture Press, Beijing, 1987. (3) W. F. Pfender and S. C. Alderman. Plant Dis. 83:754, 1999. (4) J. W. White. Mycologia 85:444, 1993.