Conyza sumatrensis (Asteraceae), an annual or biennial plant, is native to North and South America. It is an invasive, noxious weed that is widespread in southern and southeastern China. It invades farm land and causes great losses to dry land crops, including wheat, corn, and beans. It also reduces biological diversity by crowding out native plants in the infested areas (3,4). During a search for fungal pathogens that could serve as potential biological control agents of C. sumatrensis, a leaf spot disease was observed in 2010 in Chongqing, China. An isolate (SMBC22) of a highly virulent fungus was obtained from diseased leaves. Pathogenicity tests were performed by placing 6-mm-diameter mycelial disks of 7-day-old potato dextrose agar (PDA) cultures of SMBC22 on leaves of 15 healthy greenhouse-grown plants of C. sumatrensis; the same number of control plants was treated with sterile PDA disks. Treated plants were covered with plastic bags for 24 h and maintained in a growth chamber with daily average temperatures of 24 to 26°C, continuous light (3,100 lux), and high relative humidity (>90%). Lesions similar to those observed in the field were first obvious on the SMBC22-inoculated leaves 3 days after inoculation. Symptoms became severe 7 to 9 days after inoculation. Control plants remained healthy. The fungus was reisolated from inoculated and diseased leaves and it was morphologically the same as SMBC22. The pathogenicity test was conducted three times. A survey of 10 southern and southeastern Chinese provinces revealed that the disease was widespread and it attacked leaves and stems of seedlings and mature plants of C. sumatrensis. Lesions on leaves were initially small, circular, and water soaked. The typical lesion was ovoid or fusiform, dark brown, and surrounded by a yellow halo. The spots coalesced to form large lesions and plants were often completely blighted. Fungal colonies of SMBC22 on PDA plates were initially white and turned dark gray. Colonies were circular with smooth edges with obvious rings of pycnidia on the surface. Aerial hyphae were short and dense. Pycnidia, black and immersed or semi-immersed in the medium, were visible after 12 days of incubation. Pycnidia were 72 to 140 μm in diameter. Conidia were produced in the pycnidia and were hyaline, unicellular, ellipsoidal, and 4.4 to 6.1 × 1.6 to 2.2 μm. To confirm identification of the fungus, genomic DNA was extracted from mycelia of a 7-day-old culture on PDA at 25°C (2). The internal transcribed spacer (ITS) gene of rDNA was amplified using primers ITS4/ITS5. The gene sequence was 524 bp long and registered in NCBI GenBank (No. HQ645974). BLAST analysis showed that the current sequence had 99% homology to an isolate of Phoma macrostoma (DQ 404792) from Cirsium arvense (Canada thistle) in Canada and reported to cause chlorotic symptoms on that host plant (1). To our knowledge, this is the first report of P. macrostoma causing disease on C. sumatrensis in China. P. macrostoma, thought of as a biocontrol agent of broadleaf weeds in Canada, has been patented in the United States. The current isolate of P. macrostoma is considered as a potential biocontrol agent of C. sumatrensis.
References: (1) P. R. Graupner et al. J. Nat. Prod. 66:1558, 2004. (2) S. Takamatsu et al. Mycoscience 42:135, 2001. (3) W. Z. Tan et al. Page 177 in: Manual of Emergency Control Technology Invasive Pests in China. G. L. Zhang, ed. Science Press, Beijing, 2010. (4) C. Wang et al. J. Wuhan Bot. Res. 28:90, 2010.