Cosmos caudatus Kunth. (Asteraceae), commonly known as ulam raja, is widely grown as an herbal aromatic shrub. In Malaysia, its young leaves are popularly eaten raw as salad with other greens and have been reported to possess extremely high antioxidant properties, which may be partly responsible for some of its believed medicinal functions. In early 2010, a suspected powdery mildew was observed on ulam raja plants at the Agricultural Park of Universiti Putra Malaysia. Initially, individual, white, superficial colonies were small and almost circular. Later, they enlarged and coalesced to cover the whole abaxial leaf surface. With development of the disease, all green parts (leaves, stems, and petioles) became covered with a continuous mat of mildew, giving a dusty appearance. Newly emerged leaves rapidly became infected. Diseased leaves ultimately senesced and dried up, making them aesthetically unattractive and unmarketable. The pathogen produced conidia in short chains (four to six conidia) on erect conidiophores. Conidiophores were unbranched, cylindrical, 125 to 240 μm long, with a slightly swollen foot cell. Individual conidia were hyaline, ellipsoid, and 25 to 30 (27.5) × 15 to 20 (17.5) μm with fibrosin inclusions. Morphological descriptions were consistent with those described for Sphaerotheca fuliginea or S. fusca, which has lately been reclassified as Podosphaera fusca (1). From extracted genomic DNA of P. fusca UPM UR1, the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region was amplified with ITS1 (5′-TCCGTAGGTGAACCTGCGG-3′) and ITS4 (5′-TCCTCCGCTTATTGATATGC-3′). A BLAST search of GenBank with an ITS rDNA sequence of this fungus (GenBank Accession No. HQ589357) showed a maximum identity of 98% to the sequences of two P. fusca isolates (GenBank Accession Nos. AB525915.1 and AB525914.1). To satisfy Koch's postulates, the pathogenicity of fungal strain UPM UR1 was verified on 4-week-old plants. Inoculation was carried out by gently rubbing infected leaves onto healthy plants of C. caudatus. Ten pots of inoculated plants were kept under a plastic humid chamber and 10 pots of noninoculated plants, placed under another chamber, served as controls. After 48 h, the plants were then placed under natural conditions (25 to 28°C). Powdery mildew symptoms, similar to those on diseased field plants, appeared after 7 days on all inoculated plants. The white, superficial colonies enlarged and merged to cover large areas within 2 weeks. The infected leaf tissues became necrotic 6 to 8 days after the appearance of the first symptoms. Sporulation of P. fusca was observed on all infected leaves and stems. No symptoms were seen on the control plants. To our knowledge, this is the first report of P. fusca causing powdery mildew on C. caudatus in Malaysia. This pathogen has also been reported previously to be economically important on a number of other hosts. With ulam raja plants, more attention should be given to prevention and control measures to help manage this disease.
Reference: (1) U. Braun and S. Takamatsu. Schlechtendalia 4:1, 2000.