Canola (Brassica napus L.) is a significant oilseed break crop in Western Australia. In late October 2012, canola plants (cv. Jackpot) showing typical symptoms of stem rot with bleached appearance and fluffy white fungal growth on the infected tissues were observed in an experimental plot at Katanning, Western Australia. Severely affected plants were lodged with partially filled pods and shriveled seeds. Small, irregular sclerotia (<2 mm) were found inside the plants and were more concentrated in the root and basal stem than in the upper stem regions. Ten sclerotia from three symptomatic plants were surface sterilized with 1.25% NaOCl for 1 minute, rinsed twice in sterile distilled water and plated on potato dextrose agar (PDA) supplemented with 10 mg liter–1 Aureomycin. Plates were incubated under a black light at 22 ± 2°C. Sclerotinia minor Jagger was consistently isolated as identified by colony morphology, abundant sclerotia on PDA, and size of sclerotia <2 mm (3). A pathogenicity test was conducted on six 7-week-old canola plants cv. Tawriffic. Mycelial plugs (5 mm diameter) were excised from the margins of actively growing 3-day-old cultures and attached on to the 2nd and the 4th internodes of the main stem with Parafilm. Three plants inoculated with agar plugs without mycelium served as controls. Following inoculation, the plants were kept in a misting chamber for 48 h and then transferred to a growth room at 18 ± 2°C with a 12-h photoperiod. Typical lesions of stem rot similar to those observed in the field were noticed 3 days after inoculation. Within a week, all the inoculated plants were completely girdled by the lesions with stems breaking off and collapsing at the point of inoculation. Small sclerotia formed within lesions on the outside of the diseased stems. S. minor was reisolated from the stems of symptomatic plants, fulfilling Koch's postulates. No symptoms developed on the control plants. S. minor has previously been reported on host plants other than canola in Western Australia (4), canola petals in New South Wales, Australia (2), and also on canola stems in Argentina (1). To our knowledge, this is the first report of occurrence of S. minor on canola in Western Australia. Although S. sclerotiorum is the predominant species causing stem rot in canola in Western Australia, S. minor has the potential to cause significant yield losses under favorable environmental conditions. Correct identification and monitoring a shift in pathogens is essential for implementing effective management strategies and breeding resistant varieties.
References: (1) S. A. Gaetán et al. Plant Dis. 92:172, 2008. (2) T. Hind-Lanoiselet et al. Aust Plant Pathol. 30:289, 2001. (3) L. M. Kohn. Phytopathology 69:881, 1979. (4) R. Shivas. J. Royal. Soc. Western Australia 72:1, 1989.