Aida Zveibil, Department of Plant Pathology and Weed Research, ARO, The Volcani Center;
Neta Mor and
Nabeel Gnayem, Extension Service, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development; and
Stanley Freeman, Department of Plant Pathology and Weed Research, ARO, The Volcani Center, Bet Dagan 50250, Israel
Crown and root rot of strawberry, caused by Macrophomina phaseolina, have become predominant soilborne diseases of strawberry in Israel over the past 5 years. In total, 151 isolates of the pathogen were isolated from infected strawberry plants of commercially grown cultivars in Israel onto a modified agar medium for the genus Macrophomina. Sclerotia viability declined more rapidly in soil maintained at 25°C or at soil temperatures fluctuating from 18 to 32°C under greenhouse conditions, compared with sclerotia viability in soil kept at 30°C. After 30 to 40 weeks of exposure in soil, inocula maintained at 25 or 30°C or at fluctuating temperatures in a greenhouse declined to negligible levels. A significant increase in plant mortality was observed in infested soils maintained at 30 versus 25°C, whereas water stress at 25 or 30°C did not affect plant mortality in M. phaseolina-infested soils. This demonstrated the importance of elevated soil temperature, not moisture stress, on plant mortality caused by M. phaseolina. Host specificity was not evident when strawberry plants were inoculated with each of seven Israeli isolates of M. phaseolina obtained from six other plant species, suggesting the importance of keeping strawberry crops out of rotation with other host crops of the pathogen. The soil fumigants methyl bromide (applied at 500 kg/ha) and metam sodium (730 liter/ha) caused 90 and 95% pathogen mortality in field experiments, respectively, indicating that fumigation may be an effective method of managing this pathogen in infested soils. The increase in prevalence of crown and root rot caused by M. phaseolina in strawberry crops in Israel may be related to the phase-out of methyl bromide.