Schlumbergera truncata (Haw.) Moran, belonging to the Cactaceae, is a very common ornamental cactus in southern Italy. In November 2011, sudden stem wilt and root rot was observed in about 45% of vegetatively propagated plants cultivated as potted ornamental plants in a commercial greenhouse in Cerignola (Foggia Province, Apulia, Italy). The roots and collars of the plants showed brown rot. Yellow sunken lesions that were similar to cortical cankers were detected at basal level of the stem. Ten plants with these symptoms were analyzed by fungal isolation techniques. Small (0.5 cm) tissue portions from root, collar, and basal stem were plated on potato dextrose agar (PDA) after disinfection with 75% ethanol for 1 to 2 min, 0.2% NaOCl for 1 to 2 min, and a wash with sterile distilled water. A fungal isolate that was morphologically similar to Fusarium sp. was isolated from 85% of these tissue samples. It had nucleotide sequences of the internal transcribed spacer region (ITS1-5.8S-ITS2) of ribosomal DNA (GenBank Accession No. KC196121) 100% identical to those of the comparable sequences of Fusarium oxysporum (HQ651161). The nucleotide sequences of its translation elongation factor 1-α (EF-1α) gene (KC196120) showed 100% identity to sequences of F. oxysporum f. sp. opuntiarum (DQ837689, AF246881) retrieved from GenBank. Pathogenicity tests were performed at 22 ± 3°C on 18 45-day-old plants of S. truncate by adding of a 5-ml aliquot of conidial suspension adjusted to 5 × 106 conidia/ml to soil of each plant. Six non-inoculated plants were used for a control treatment and sprayed with 5 ml of sterilized water. Plants were maintained in greenhouse at 22 ± 3°C. After 10 days, nine of the inoculated plants showed wilting, and after 45 days, all of them were dead, with root and collar rot and lesions on the basal stem. Control plants were symptomless. Koch's postulates were fulfilled as the pathogen was reisolated from all of the symptomatic tissues and identified as Fusarium sp. On the basis of 3-septate macroconidia (mean 31.75 × 3.21 μm; range, 26 to 35 μm long, 3.0 to 4.2 μm wide), aseptate microconidia, single chlamydospores, and monophialide conidiophores on carnation leaf agar, and molecular analyses, the fungus was identified as F. oxysporum f. sp. opuntiarum (Speg) (1,2,3). In Italy, F. oxysporum f. sp. opuntiarum was reported as basal stem rot of Echinocactus grusoni (4). To our knowledge, this is the first report of stem wilt and root rot of S. truncata caused by F. oxysporum f. sp. opuntiarum in Italy.
References: (1) W. Gerlach. Phytopathol. Z. 74:197, 1972. (2) W. L. Gordon. Can. J. Bot. 43:1309, 1965. (3) P. E. Nelson et al. Fusarium Species: An Illustrated Manual for Identification. Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park, 1983. (4) G. Polizzi et al. Plant Dis. 88:85, 2004.