Amirhossein Bahramisharif, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Stellenbosch, Private Bag X1, Matieland 7602, South Africa;
Sandra C. Lamprecht, Agricultural Research Council–Plant Protection Research Institute, Private Bag X5017, Stellenbosch 7599, South Africa;
Frikkie Calitz, Agricultural Research Council-Biometry Unit, Pretoria, 0001, South Africa; and
Adéle McLeod, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa
Pathogenic oomycetes, including Phytophthora cinnamomi and several Pythium spp. (Pythium irregulare, P. mamillatum, P. myriotylum, and P. pyrilobum), cause serious damping-off problems in rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) nurseries. The management of these pathogens in organic nurseries is problematic, because phenylamide fungicides may not be used. Compost, or compost in combination with Pythium taxa that are nonpathogenic to rooibos (P. acanthicum, P. cederbergense, and Pythium RB II), were investigated as alternative management options. Compost was able to suppress damping-off caused by several oomycete isolates but there was within- and between-species variation among the 30 evaluated isolates. This phenomenon was observed using two compost batches (A and B) sourced from independent suppliers. Compost B significantly reduced damping-off caused by 60% of the isolates, whereas compost A controlled only 37% of the isolates. The pathogens that were more readily controlled by both composts included P. mamillatum and P. pyrilobum, whereas the composts were ineffective at suppressing damping-off caused by >62% of P. irregulare and >50% of P. myriotylum isolates. Based on the evaluation of one Phytophthora cinnamomi isolate, this pathogen may also be controlled by compost. Neither of the composts as a stand-alone treatment could suppress damping-off caused by a combination of pathogenic species (P. cinnamomi, Pythium irregulare, P. mamillatum, P. myriotylum, and P. pyrilobum). However, damping-off was significantly reduced when nonpathogenic Pythium taxa (P. acanthicum, P. cederbergense, and Pythium RB II) were combined with the composts. Similarly, damping-off caused by a P. irregulare isolate that was not suppressed by either of the composts alone was significantly suppressed when the two composts were inoculated with the nonpathogenic Pythium taxa.