J. M. French, New Mexico State University, Department of Extension Plant Sciences, Las Cruces, NM 88003;
J. J. Randall and
R. A. Stamler, New Mexico State University, Department of Entomology, Plant Pathology, and Weed Science, Las Cruces, NM 88003;
A. C. Segura, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, El Paso, TX 79925; and
N. P. Goldberg, New Mexico State University, Department of Extension Plant Sciences, Las Cruces, NM 88003
In December 2011, edible sunflower sprouts (Helianthus annus) of two different commercially grown cultivars (Sungrown and Tiensvold) exhibiting stem and cotyledon lesions were submitted to the New Mexico State University Plant Clinic for disease diagnosis. The sample originated from an organic farm in Santa Fe County where the grower utilizes a small indoor growing facility. Stem lesions were elongate, reddish brown, and often constricted, resulting in stem girdling. Lesions on the cotyledons were dark brown with tan centers and round to irregular in shape. In some cases, the entire cotyledon was blighted. Fungal hyphae were observed on some lesions using a dissecting microscope. Colletotrichum acutatum was isolated from stem and cotyledon lesions when symptomatic tissue was plated on water agar. Conidia were fusiform ranging from 6.4 to 18.4 μm long and 2.1 to 5.1 μm wide and averaged 11.9 μm × 3.4 μm. Spores were measured from cream-colored colonies produced on acidified potato dextrose agar. PCR amplification and sequence analysis of 5.8S ribosomal DNA and internal transcribed spacers I and II was performed using primers ITS4 and ITS6 (2). An amplification product of approximately 600 base pairs in size was directly sequenced (GenBank Accession No. JX444690). A BLAST search of the NCBI total nucleotide collection revealed a 99% identity to multiple C. acutatum (syn: C. simmondsii) isolates. Four isolates were identified as C. acutatum based on morphological characteristics and DNA analysis. Koch's postulates were performed using four isolates of the pathogen and the two commercial sunflower cultivars (Sungrown and Tiensvold) originally submitted for disease analysis. Sunflower seeds were imbibed in distilled water for 24 h then sewn into peat plugs. Prior to seed germination, 5 ml of a C. acutatum spore solution (1 × 106/ml) from each isolate was applied to five peat plugs using an atomizer. Control plants were inoculated with distilled water and otherwise treated identically. Both sunflower cultivars were inoculated with each isolate of the pathogen and the test was replicated twice. The sewn peat plugs were incubated for 5 days at 21°C and 50% relative humidity. Symptoms similar to the original samples were present on 100% of the sprouts after 5 days. PCR and sequence analysis performed on cultures obtained from lesions showed a 100% match to the original New Mexico isolates fulfilling Koch's postulates. In an indoor organic facility, such as the one in NM, this disease has the potential to be very difficult to manage and the potential to infect a high percentage of the crop resulting in significant economic losses. To our knowledge, this is the second report of C. acutatum on sunflower sprouts in the United States (1) and the first report in New Mexico.
References: (1) S. T. Koike et al. Plant Dis. 93:1351, 2009. (2) T. J. White et al. Page 315 in: PCR Protocols: A Guide to Methods and Applications. M. A. Innis et al., eds. Academic Press, San Diego, 1990.