During summer 2010, symptoms of a wilt disease were observed in a commercial farm in northern Italy on Crassula ovata (jade plant). First symptoms consisted of chlorosis and premature drop of still turgid leaves. As the disease progressed, leaves turned yellow and wilted before dropping off and the stem wilted, bent, and eventually rotted starting from the base. In some cases, the stem broke or the basal portion of the leaf rotted. Brown discolorations were observed in the vascular system. Of 10,000 plants, 65% (cv. Mini) and 5% of 600 plants (cv. Magical Tree) were affected. Premature dropping of leaves was more frequent on cv. Magical Tree. Using the Komada's Fusarium-selective medium, a fungus was consistently and readily isolated from symptomatic vascular tissues of plants belonging to both cultivars. Isolates obtained from both cultivars were purified, subcultured on potato dextrose agar (PDA), and single-spore cultures were obtained. On PDA, both isolates produced pale violet, abundant, aerial mycelium, felted in old cultures, with purple pigments in the agar. The isolates were grown on Spezieller Nährstoffarmer agar for characterization of macroconidia and microconidia (1). Both isolates produced sparse, 3 to 5 septate, nearly straight macroconidia measuring 30 to 56 × 3 to 5 (average 40 × 4) μm with a short apical cell and a foot-shaped basal cell. Sporodochia were not observed. Unicellular, oval-elliptical microconidia measuring 5 to 13 × 3 to 4 (average 8 × 3) μm were produced on short monophialides. Chlamydospores were abundant, single and sometime in pairs, terminal and intercalary, rough walled, and measured 6 to 9 μm. Such characteristics are typical of Fusarium oxysporum (3). The ITS region (internal transcribed spacer) of rDNA was amplified with primers ITS1/ITS4 (4) and sequenced. BLASTn analysis of an isolate from C. ovata cv. Mini (515 bp, Accession No. HQ682196) and C. ovata cv. Magical Tree (509 bp, Accession No. HQ682197) showed an E-value of 0.0 with F. oxysporum. For these sequences, pairwise alignment of EMBOSS (E.B.I. - The European Bioinformatics Institute) revealed identity and similarity of 99.0%. To confirm pathogenicity, tests were conducted on 5-month-old plants of cvs. Mini and Magical Tree. Plants (three per treatment) were inoculated by dipping roots in a 1 × 106 CFU/ml conidial suspension of the two isolates of F. oxysporum prepared from 10-day-old cultures grown on casein liquid medium (2), shaken (90 rpm) for 10 days at 24°C ± 1 (12-h fluorescent light, 12-h dark). Inoculated plants were transplanted into pots filled with steamed mix (sphagnum peat/perlite/pine bark/clay; 50:20:20:10) and maintained in a plant growth chamber at 25 ± 1°C under a regimen of 12 h per day of fluorescent light. Inoculated plants belonging to both cultivars showed typical first symptoms of Fusarium wilt after 13 days. In the following days, leaves dropped, stems wilted, and plants died. Noninoculated plants remained healthy. F. oxysporum was reisolated from inoculated plants. The pathogenicity test was conducted twice. This is, to our knowledge, the first report of F. oxysporum on C. ovata in Italy or worldwide.
References: (1) J. F. Leslie and B. A. Summerell. The Fusarium Laboratory Manual. Blackwell Professional, Ames, IA, 2006. (2) A. Minuto et al. Phytoparasitica 36:294, 2008. (3) B. A. Summerell et al. Plant Dis. 87:117, 2003. (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.