Istituto per la Protezione delle Piante, Sezione di Bari, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, 70126 Bari, Italy
Centro Ricerca e Sperimentazione in Agricoltura “Basile Caramia”, 70010 Locorotondo (BA), Italy
Instituto de Agricultura Sostenible, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Apdo. 4084, 14080-Córdoba, Spain
Stunted cabbage (‘Lupini’) associated with severe soil infestations by a cyst-forming nematode were observed in large patches of open fields in Castellaneta, province of Taranto, southern Italy. Morphological traits based on mature cysts, males, and second-stage juveniles (J2s) and molecular analysis of ribosomal DNA (D2 to D3 expansion segments of 28S and internal transcribed spacer [ITS]1 region) were used to identify the species. ITS1 sequence information supported the identity of Heterodera cruciferae, also showing a high degree of similarity to other species of the Heterodera Goettingiana group, including H. goettingiana, H. carotae, and H. urticae. Nematodes successfully established permanent feeding sites in cabbage roots which caused cellular alterations in the root cortex, endodermis, pericycle, and vascular cylinder by inducing typical multinucleate syncytia. Syncytial cytoplasm was granular and dense, with variously sized vacuoles and hypertrophied nuclei with nucleoli. Cabbage plant growth was also reduced in pathogenicity tests. The relationship between the initial nematode population density in soil and shoot plant weight was well described by the Seinhorst's equation. Tolerance limits with respect to shoot plant weight of cabbage to H. cruciferae was estimated as 1.50 units of eggs plus J2s/cm3 of soil. The minimum relative value (m) for plant height was 0.71 at an initial nematode population density of (Pi) ≥ 64 units of eggs plus J2s/cm3 of soil. The maximum nematode reproduction rate (Pf/Pi) was 4.6 times that of the initial population density of 8 units of eggs plus J2s/cm3 of soil.