Jerry E. Weiland,
Bryan R. Beck, and
Anne Davis, United States Department of Agriculture – Agriculture Research Service, Horticultural Crops Research Laboratory, and Oregon State University, Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, Corvallis, OR 97331
Pythium species are common soilborne oomycetes that occur in forest nursery soils throughout the United States. Numerous species have been described from nursery soils. However, with the exception of P. aphanidermatum, P. irregulare, P. sylvaticum, and P. ultimum, little is known about the potential for other Pythium species found in nursery soils to cause damping-off of tree seedlings. A greenhouse study was conducted to evaluate the pathogenicity and virulence of 44 Pythium isolates representing 16 species that were originally recovered from soil at three forest nurseries in Washington and Oregon. Seeds of Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) were planted into soil infested with each of the isolates. Seedling survival, the number of surviving seedlings with necrotic root lesions, and taproot length were evaluated 4 weeks later. Responses of Douglas-fir to inoculation varied significantly depending on Pythium species and isolate. Eight species (P. dissotocum, P. irregulare, P. aff. macrosporum, P. mamillatum, P. aff. oopapillum, P. rostratifingens, P. sylvaticum, and P. ultimum var. ultimum) significantly reduced the number of surviving seedlings compared to the noninoculated treatment. However, all Pythium species caused a greater percentage of seedlings to develop root lesions (total mean 40%) than was observed from noninoculated seedlings (17%). Taproot length varied little among Pythium treatments and was not a useful character for evaluating pathogenicity. Results confirm the ability of P. irregulare, P. mamillatum, and P. ultimum var. ultimum to cause damping-off of Douglas-fir seedlings, and are indicative that other species such as P. dissotocum, P. aff. macrosporum, P. aff. oopapillum, P. rostratifingens, and P. sylvaticum may also be responsible for seedling loss.