Horticultural & Herbal Crop Environment Division, National Institute of Horticultural and Herbal Science, Suwon 441-440, Korea
Department of Plant Science, Gangneung-Wonju National University, Gangneung 210-702, Korea
Division of Environmental Science and Ecological Engineering, Korea University, Seoul 136-701, Korea
In September 2011, hundreds of asparagus (Asparagus officinalis L.) showing symptoms of blight with nearly 100% incidence (percentage of plants affected) were found in polyethylene tunnels at an organic farm in Gangneung City of Korea. Lesions on needles and branches of the ferns were small, elliptic to subcircular, pale tan to brown with reddish brown borders, and became gray and cottony due to heavy sporulation under continuous high humidity. Infection caused premature defoliation and weakened plant vigor. The damage purportedly due to this disease has reappeared with confirmation of the causal agent made again in 2012. A cercosporoid fungus was consistently associated with disease symptoms. Stromata were well developed, consisting of brown cells, and were 10 to 30 μm wide. Conidiophores were fasciculate (n = 2 to 12), olivaceous brown, paler upwards, straight to mildly curved, not geniculate in shorter ones, or 1 to 2 times geniculate in longer ones, 40 to 260 μm long, 3.5 to 5.5 μm wide, and 1- to 6-septate. Conidia were hyaline, cylindric to acicular, straight in shorter ones, curved in longer ones, truncate to obconically truncate at the base with darkened hila, guttulate, 2- to 12-septate, and 40 to 220 × 3 to 5 μm. Morphological characteristics of the fungus were consistent with the previous reports of Cercospora asparagi Sacc. (1). Voucher specimens were housed at the Korea University herbarium (KUS). An isolate from KUS-F26046 was deposited in the Korean Agricultural Culture Collection (Accession No. KACC46400). The complete internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region of rDNA was amplified with the primers ITS1/ITS4 and sequenced. The resulting sequence of 497 bp was deposited in GenBank (Accession No. JX964995). This showed >99% similarity with sequences of many Cercospora species, indicating their close phylogenetic relationship. For pathogenicity tests, conidial suspensions (105 conidia/ml) were prepared by culturing the fungus on V8 juice agar (2) for 3 weeks. Five plants were inoculated with conidial suspensions and five plants were sprayed with sterile distilled water. The plants were covered with plastic bags to maintain 100% RH for 24 h and then transferred to a greenhouse. Typical symptoms of necrotic lesions appeared on the inoculated plants 6 days after treatment, and were identical to the ones observed in the field. C. asparagi was reisolated from symptomatic tissues, confirming Koch's postulates. No symptoms were observed on control plants. The disease has been reported through the regions of the world where asparagus is grown (3). In Korea, the disease was recorded in 1928 by Japanese workers under Cercosporina asparagicola Speg. (regarded as synonymous with Cercospora asparagi) with brief notes (4). Though one sample of asparagus was sent to the author (KSH) for diagnosis in 2009 summer and determined to be infected with C. asparagi (unpublished data), there has been no additional finding of the disease in Korea for the last 82 years. To our knowledge, this is the first confirmed report of Cercospora blight of asparagus caused by C. asparagi in Korea.
References: (1) C. Chupp. A Monograph of the Fungus Genus Cercospora. Ithaca, NY, 1953. (2) C. J. Cooperman and S. F. Jenkins. Phytopathology 76:617, 1986. (3) D. F. Farr and A. Y. Rossman. Fungal Databases. Syst. Mycol. Microbiol. Lab., Online publication, ARS, USDA, Retrieved October 20, 2012. (4) K. Nakata and S. Takimoto. Bull. Agric. Exp. Stat. Korea 15:1, 1928.