Rosmarinus officinalis L., family Labiatae, is an evergreen shrub used in gardens as an aromatic or ground cover plant. In the summer of 2012, a blight was observed in a farm located near Albenga (northern Italy) on 20% of 150,000 70-day-old plants, grown in trays. Water soaked lesions appeared on leaves and stems. As the disease progressed, blighted leaves turned brown, withered, clung to the shoots, and matted on the surrounding foliage. A light mycelium spread on the substrate. Disease progressed from infected plants to healthy ones and, eventually, infected plants died. Leaf and stem fragments taken from the margin of the diseased tissues belonging to 10 plants were disinfected for 10 s in 1% NaOCl, rinsed with sterile water, and plated on potato dextrose agar (PDA). A fungus with the morphological characters of Rhizoctonia solani was consistently and readily recovered. Three isolates of R. solani obtained from affected plants were successfully paired with R. solani tester strains AG 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, or 11 and examined microscopically. Three pairings were made for each recovered isolate. The isolates of R. solani from rosemary anastomosed only with tester strain AG 1 (ATCC 58946). Results were consistent with other reports on anastomosis reactions (2). Tests were repeated once. Mycelium of 10-day-old isolates from rosemary appeared light brown, compact, and radiate. Numerous dark brown sclerotia, 0.7 to 2.0 mm diameter (average 1.3), developed within 10 days at 20 to 26°C. The descriptions of mycelium and sclerotia were typical for subgroup IA Type 2 (4). The internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region of rDNA was amplified using the primers ITS1/ITS4 and sequenced (GenBank Accession No. KC005724). BLASTn analysis (1) of the 657-bp showed a 99% similarity with the sequence of R. solani GU596491. For pathogenicity tests, inoculum of R. solani was prepared by growing the pathogen on wheat kernels autoclaved in 1-liter glass flasks for 8 days. One of the isolates assigned to the anastomosis group AG 1 IA was tested. Fifteen 90-day-old rosemary plants were grown in 15-liter pots in a steam disinfested peat:pomice:pine bark:clay mix (50:20:20:10) infested with 3 g/liter of infested wheat kernels, placed at the base of the stem. Fifteen plants inoculated with non-infested wheat kernels served as control treatments. Plants were covered with plastic bags and arranged in a growth chamber at 20 to 24°C with 12 h light/dark for 15 days. The first symptoms, similar to those observed in the farm, developed 10 days after inoculation. About 10 colonies of R. solani were reisolated from infected leaves and stems of each inoculated plant. Control plants remained healthy. The pathogenicity test was carried out twice with similar results. Symptoms caused by R. solani have been recently observed on R. officinalis in United States (3), India, and Brazil. This is, to our knowledge, the first report of blight of R. officinalis caused by R. solani in Italy. This disease could cause serious economic losses, because rosemary is one of the most cultivated aromatic plants in the Mediterranean region.
References: (1) S. F. Altschul et al. Nucleic Acids Res. 25:3389, 1997. (2) D. E. Carling. Grouping in Rhizoctonia solani by hyphal anastomosis reactions. In: Rhizoctonia Species: Taxonomy, Molecular Biology, Ecology, Pathology and Disease control. Kluwer Academic Publishers, The Netherlands, 1996. (3) G. E. Holcomb. Plant Dis. 76:859, 1992. (4) R. T. Sherwood. Phytopathology 59:1924, 1969.