There are few reports on diseases of switchgrass. In November 2009, light brown to white bleached spots (1 to 2 × 3 to 4 μm) were observed on ‘Alamo’ switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) grown in a growth chamber in Knoxville, TN, from surface-disinfested seed produced in Colorado. Symptomatic leaf tissue was surface sterilized, air dried, and plated on 2% water agar (WA) amended with 6.9 mg fenpropathrin/liter (Danitol 2.4 EC, Valent Chemical, Walnut Creek, CA) and 10 mg/liter rifampicin (Sigma-Aldrich, St. Louis, MO). Plates were incubated at 26°C in the dark for 5 days. A sporulating, dematiaceous, mitosporic fungus was observed and transferred to potato dextrose agar. Colonies were white to gray, with brown as conidia increased. Conidia ranged in size from 10 to 22.5 × 20 to 37.5 (average 15.2 × 26.5) μm. Conidia were golden to dark brown, broadly ellipsoidal, some pyriform, with one longitudinal septum and two to three transverse septa, sometimes constricted at the transverse septa. Based on microscopic examination, the fungus was identified as Pithomyces chartarum (Berk. & Curt.) M.B. Ellis (1); observations were consistent with the authority (2). Pathogenicity assays were conducted with 5-week-old ‘Alamo’ switchgrass grown from seed scarified with 60% sulfuric acid and surface-sterilized with 50% bleach. Seed were sown in 9 × 9-cm pots containing 50% (v/v) ProMix Potting and Seeding Mix (Premier Tech Horticulture, Québec, Canada) and 50% Turface ProLeague (Profile Products, Buffalo Grove, IL). Eight replicate pots with ~20 plants each were sprayed with a spore suspension of 5.7 × 105 spores/ml sterile water prepared from 6-day-old cultures grown on V8 juice agar in the dark. Two more pots were sprayed with sterile water to serve as controls. All plants were subjected to high humidity for 72 h by enclosure in a plastic bag. Plants were placed in a growth chamber at 25/20°C with a 12-h photoperiod. Leaf spot symptoms similar to the original disease were evident on plants in each of the eight replicate pots 6 to 10 days post-inoculation. Control plants had no symptoms. Lesions were excised from leaves, surface sterilized, and plated on WA. The resulting cultures were again identified as P. chartarum based on morphology. The internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region of rDNA from the original isolate and the pathogen recovered from plants in the pathogenicity tests were amplified with PCR using primers ITS4 and ITS5. PCR amplicons were obtained from both isolates, sequenced, and found to have 100% identity. A 580-bp sequence was deposited at GenBank (Accession No. JQ406588). The nucleotide sequence had 98 to 100% identity to the ITS sequences of isolates of Leptosphaerulina chartarum (anamorph: P. chartarum), including isolate Mxg-KY09-s4 (GU195649) from leaf spot on Miscanthus × giganteus in Kentucky (1), and isolates from leaf lesions on wheat (EF489400 and JX442978). To our knowledge, leaf spot caused by P. chartarum has not been described on switchgrass (3). Pithomyces chartarum is a seedborne pathogen of switchgrass, and may play a role in stand establishment.
References: (1) M. O. Ahonsi et al. Plant Dis. 94:480, 2010. (2) M. B. Ellis. Dematiaceous Hyphomycetes. Commonwealth Mycological Institute, Kew, Surrey, England. 1971. (3) D. F. Farr and A. Y. Rossman. Fungal Databases. Systematic Mycology and Microbiology Laboratory, ARS, USDA, Retrieved from http://nt.ars-grin.gov/fungaldatabases/, 18 January 2013.