Black scurf and stem canker on potato (Solanum tuberosum L.), caused by Rhizoctonia solani, is an important disease throughout the world. Isolates of R. solani AG3 are the principal cause of these diseases on potato (2). In August 2011, at the tuber bulking growth stage, symptoms typically associated stem canker, including dark brown stem lesions, were observed on 20% of potato plants collected from 23 locations (about 2,000 ha) in Gansu Province, northwest China. Stem pieces (each 5 mm long) taken from the margins of the healthy and diseased tissues were surface-disinfected with 0.5% NaOCl for 2 min, rinsed with sterilized water, dried, then placed on potato dextrose agar (PDA) at 25°C in the dark. Twenty-nine fungal isolates taken from single hyphal tips were identified as R. solani based on morphological traits, including mycelium branched at right angles with a septum near the branch and a slight constriction at the branch base. Hyphal cells were determined to be multinucleate (4 to 10 nuclei/cell) when stained with 4′-6-diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI). Anastomosis groups were determined by pairing with reference strains (kindly provided by N. Kondo, Hokkaido University, Japan), and three isolates (designed GS-15, GS-24, and GS-25) anastomosed with isolates of R. solani AG4. The internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region of rDNA was amplified from genomic DNA of each of the three isolates with primers ITS1 and ITS4. The resulting sequences (GenBank Accession Nos. JX843818, JX843819, and JX843820) were 100% identical to those of >10 R. solani AG4 HGII isolates (e.g., HQ629873.1; isolate ND13). Therefore, based on the anastomosis assay and molecular characteristics, the three isolates were identified as R. solani AG4 HGII. To determine pathogenicity of the AG4 HGII isolates, potato seed tubers (cv. Favorita) with 3 to 5 mm long sprouts were inoculated with wheat seeds (sterilized by autoclaving twice at 121°C for 1 h with a 24 h interval between autoclavings) colonized with each isolate (1). One sprouted tuber was planted in a sterilized plastic pot (1 liter) with a single colonized wheat seed placed 10 mm above the uppermost sprout tip in a sand/sawdust mixture (1:2 v/v, with dry heat sterilization at 161°C for 4 h before use). Plants were incubated in a glasshouse maintained at 25 to 27°C. The test was performed on 20 plants for each isolate, and the experiment was repeated. After 3 weeks, control plants inoculated with sterilized wheat seeds remained asymptomatic, and no Rhizoctonia spp. were isolated from these plants, whereas all inoculated plants showed symptoms of stem canker. R. solani AG4 HGII was reisolated consistently from symptomatic stems, and the identity of the reisolates confirmed by the morphological and molecular characteristics mentioned above, fulfilling Koch's postulates. Potato stem canker caused by R. solani AG4 HGII was reported previously in the United States (3). To our knowledge, this is the first report of R. solani AG4 HGII causing stem canker on potato in Gansu Province, the main potato-producing area of China. R. solani AG4 HGII can cause sheath blight on corn in China (4), which is commonly grown in rotation with potato. This rotation could increase the risk of soilborne infection to either crop by R. solani AG4 HGII.
References: (1) M. J. Lehtonen et al. Plant Pathol. 57:141, 2008. (2) L. Tsror. J. Phytopathol. 158:649, 2010. (3) J. W. Woodhall et al. Plant Dis. 96:1701, 2012. (4) X. Zhou et al. J. Shenyang Agric. Univ. 43:33, 2012.