G. Azouaoui-Idjer, Institut National de Recherche Forestiere BP 73, Chéraga, Algiers, Algeria;
G. Della Rocca and
A. Pecchioli, CNR, Institute for Plant Protection, Area della Ricerca, Via Madonna del Piano 10, 50019 Sesto Fiorentino, Italy;
Z. Bouznad, Ecole Nationale Supérieure d'Agronomie, rue Hassen Badi Belfort, El Harrach, Algeria; and
R. Danti, CNR, Institute for Plant Protection, Area della Ricerca, Via Madonna del Piano 10, 50019 Sesto Fiorentino, Italy
Stem cankers and branches showing bark discoloration, fissuring, resin exudation leading to dieback, crown wilting, and tree mortality have been observed since late spring 2008 on 40-year-old Cupressus macrocarpa (Hartw.) trees planted in forests mixed with Juniperus oxycedrus L. and Acer monspessulanum L. in Taffet, near Ain Abbessa, in the district of Bougaa, Algeria (36°18′57″N; 05°06′33″E; 1,400 m elevation). In 2010, approximately 60% of the C. macrocarpa trees were diseased. For fungal isolations, cankered branches were surface sterilized with ethanol. After removal of the outer bark, fragments of necrotic inner bark taken from the margin of cankers were plated on potato dextrose agar (PDA). Most of the colonies were identified as Botryosphaeria iberica (Phillips, Luque & Alves) based on comparison of morphological traits and DNA sequences with known isolates of the fungus (1). Pestalotiopsis funerea colonies were also obtained, although with less frequency. B. iberica colonies on PDA were dark green with aerial mycelium and optimum growth at 25°C. Pycnidia were produced after 3 weeks of incubation at 20°C under a 12-h near UV light photoperiod on water agar amended with autoclaved cypress seeds. Conidia were brown, one-septate, oval to oblong, and 24.2 (20.1 to 27.4) × 11.2 μm (8.8 to 14.1) (n= 50). An isolate was deposited at the Centralbureau voor Schimmelculture as CBS 130984. DNA was extracted from freeze-dried mycelium and amplified using primers ITS1 and ITS4. The amplified DNA sequence of B. iberica isolate CBS 130984 from Algeria (GenBank Accession No. JN836991) showed 100% homology with sequences of B. iberica isolates obtained from dead and cankered bark of oaks from Spain and Italy (GenBank Accession Nos. AY573216, AY573214, AY573213, AY573210, AY573202, and AY573201). Stem inoculations were performed in the greenhouse on 10 4-year-old, grafted plants of C. macrocarpa growing in 5-liter pots using isolate CBS 130984. A 3-mm plug taken from the margin of a colony grown on PDA for 1 week was inserted in a circular wound of the same size made in the bark with a cork borer where the stem diameter was approximately 1 cm. Inoculations were repeated in June 2010 and June 2011. Five months after inoculations, small rounded to elongated lesions (1.0 to 2.5 cm long), sometimes with resin exuding cracks, were visible on all inoculated stems. Control trees, inoculated with sterile PDA plugs, showed no canker development. B. iberica was successfully reisolated from the necrotic bark surrounding the inoculation sites. No significant differences in canker size were observed between the two replicated experiments. Some Botryosphaeria species that are found on a variety of hosts are also known to cause cankers and dieback of cypress; among these are B. stewensii, B. obtusa, B. dothidea, and B. ribis, often acting as weak pathogens (2,3). Considered weakly virulent in causing dieback of grapevine (4) and, to our knowledge, reported here for the first time on Cupressaceae, B. iberica caused cankers and dieback of C. macrocarpa trees that had probably been weakened by repeated drought events occurring in Algeria during the last 10 years.
References: (1) A. Phillips et al. Mycologia 97:513, 2005. (2) E. Punithalingam and J. M. Waller. IMI Descriptions of Fungi and Bacteria 40, Sheet 394, 1973; (3) E. Punithalingam and P. Holliday. IMI Descriptions of Fungi and Bacteria. 40, Sheet 395, 1973; (4) R. Úrbez-Torres et al. Plant Dis. 93:584, 2009.