P. A. Okubara, United States Department of Agriculture–Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), Root Disease and Biological Control Research Unit, Pullman, WA 99164;
L. A. Harrison, former graduate student, and
E. W. Gatch, graduate student, Washington State University Mount Vernon NWREC, Mount Vernon 98273;
G. Vandemark, USDA-ARS, Grain Legume Genetics and Physiology Research Unit, Pullman, WA 99164;
K. L. Schroeder, Department of Plant Pathology, Washington State University, Pullman 99164; and
L. J. du Toit, Washington State University Mount Vernon NWREC
Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. spinaciae, causal agent of spinach Fusarium wilt, is an important soilborne pathogen in many areas of the world where spinach is grown. The pathogen is persistent in acid soils of maritime western Oregon and Washington, the only region of the United States suitable for commercial spinach seed production. A TaqMan real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay was developed for rapid identification and quantification of the pathogen, based on sequencing the intergenic spacer (IGS) region of rDNA of isolates of the pathogen. A guanine single-nucleotide polymorphism (G SNP) was detected in the IGS sequences of 36 geographically diverse isolates of F. oxysporum f. sp. spinaciae but not in the sequences of 64 isolates representing other formae speciales and 33 isolates representing other fungal species or genera. The SNP was used to develop a probe for a real-time PCR assay. The real-time PCR assay detected F. oxysporum f. sp. spinaciae at 3–14,056 CFU/g of soil in 82 soil samples collected over 3 years from naturally infested spinach seed production sites in western Washington, although a reliable detection limit of the assay was determined to be 11 CFU/g of soil. A significant (P < 0.05), positive correlation between enumeration of F. oxysporum on Komada's agar and quantification of the pathogen using the TaqMan assay was observed in a comparison of 82 soil samples. Correlations between pathogen DNA levels, Fusarium wilt severity ratings, and spinach biomass were significantly positive for one set of naturally infested soils but not between pathogen DNA levels, wilt incidence ratings, and spinach biomass for other soil samples, suggesting that soilborne pathogen population is not the sole determinant of spinach Fusarium wilt incidence or severity. The presence of the G SNP detected in one isolate of each of F. oxysporum ff. spp. lageneriae, lilii, melongenae, and raphani and reaction of the real-time PCR assay with 16 of 22 nonpathogenic isolates of F. oxysporum associated with spinach plants or soil in which spinach had been grown potentially limits the application of this assay. Nonetheless, because all isolates of F. oxysporum f. sp. spinaciae tested positive with the real-time PCR assay, the assay may provide a valuable means of screening for resistance to Fusarium wilt by quantifying development of the pathogen in spinach plants inoculated with the pathogen.