During the summer of 2010, 20% of 7,000 4-month-old plants of apple cactus (Cereus peruvianus monstruosus) showed symptoms of a basal stem rot in a commercial nursery located in Liguria (northern Italy). Affected plants showed yellow orange-to-pale brown color from the crown level to the stem apex and a water-soaked rot was observed on the stem starting from the base. Brown discoloration was observed in the vascular system. Eventually stems bent, plants collapsed and died, and affected tissues dried out. A Fusarium sp. was consistently and readily isolated from symptomatic tissue on Komada selective medium. Isolates were purified and subcultured on potato dextrose agar (PDA). Single-spore cultures on PDA, Spezieller Nährstoffarmer agar (SNA) (3), and carnation leaf-piece agar (CLA) (2) were incubated at 26 ± 1°C (12-h fluorescent light, 12-h dark). On PDA, cultures produced a thick growth of white-to-pink mycelium and pale pink pigments in the agar. On SNA, cultures produced short monophialides with unicellular, ovoid-elliptical microconidia measuring 4.3 to 8.2 × 2.3 to 3.8 (average 6.0 × 2.8) μm. Chlamydospores were abundant, single or paired, terminal and intercalary, rough walled, and 6 to 8 μm in diameter. On CLA, cultures produced orange sporodochia with macroconidia that were 3 to 4 septate, nearly straight with a foot-shaped basal cell and a short apical cell, and measured 31.1 to 51.5 × 4.4 to 3.5 (average 43.2 × 3.8) μm. Such characteristics are typical of Fusarium oxysporum (3). Amplification of the ITS (internal transcribed spacer) of the rDNA using primers ITS1/ITS4 (4) yielded a 498-bp band. Sequencing and BLASTn analysis of this band showed an E-value of 0.0 with F. oxysporum. The nucleotide sequence has been assigned GenBank Accession No. JF422071. To confirm pathogenicity, five 6-month-old healthy plants of C. peruvianus monstruosus were inoculated by dipping roots in a conidial suspension (2.4 × 106 CFU/ml) of F. oxysporum isolated from affected plants. Inoculum was obtained from pure cultures of three single-spore isolates grown for 10 days on casein hydrolysate liquid medium. Roots were not wounded before the inoculation. Plants were transplanted into pots filled with steam-sterilized substrate (sphagnum peat/perlite/pine bark/clay 50:20:20:10). Five noninoculated plants served as a control. Plants were placed in a climatic chamber at 25 ± 1°C (12-h fluorescent light, 12 h-dark). Basal stem rot and vascular discoloration in the crown and stem developed within 30 days on each inoculated plant. Noninoculated plants remained healthy. F. oxysporum was consistently isolated from symptomatic plants. The pathogenicity test was conducted twice. F. oxysporum has been reported on Cereus spp. in the United States (1). To our knowledge, this is the first report of F. oxysporum on C. peruvianus monstruosus in Italy as well as in Europe. Currently, this disease is present in a few nurseries in Liguria.
References: (1) D. F. Farr et al. Fungi on Plants and Plant Products in the United States. The American Phytopathological Society, St Paul, MN, 1989. (2) N. L. Fisher et al. Phytopathology 72:151, 1982. (3) J. F. Leslie and B. A. Summerell. The Fusarium Laboratory Manual. Blackwell, Ames, IA, 2006. (4) T. J. White et al. PCR Protocols: A Guide to Methods and Applications. M. A. Innis et al., eds. Academic Press, San Diego, 1990.