Centre of Competence AGROINNOVA, University of Torino, Via Leonardo da Vinci 44, 10095 Grugliasco, Italy
Spearmint (Mentha spicata L.) is an aromatic plant belonging to the family Lamiaceae, grown as well as an ornamental potted plant. During the beginning of 2013, extensive wilting was observed on 4-month-old potted plants of M. spicata ‘Moroccan’ grown in a commercial, unheated, plastic house located near Albenga (Savona, northern Italy). Initial symptoms included stem necrosis and darkening and withering of leaves. Wilting of the plant occurred 2 to 4 days after the appearance of the initial symptoms. Infected plants were characterized by the presence of cottony soft rot. In the presence of high relative humidity, lesions became covered with a whitish mycelium and irregular, dark gray sclerotia (2.0 to 9.0 × 1.8 to 4.0, average 4.0 × 2.6 mm) were produced on the mycelium. Diseased tissue was surface sterilized for 1 min in 1% NaOCl and plated on potato dextrose agar (PDA) amended with 100 mg/l streptomycin sulfate. White colonies developed from infected stem pieces and produced sclerotia, mainly at the peripheries of the plates, measuring 2.0 to 8.0 × 2.0 to 6.0 (average 4.4 × 3.1) mm. The internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region of rDNA was amplified using the primers ITS1F/ITS4 and sequenced. BLAST analysis (1) of the 514-bp segment showed a 99% homology with the sequence of Sclerotinia sclerotiorum (JN012605). The nucleotide sequence has been assigned the GenBank Accession KC848769. The morphological and molecular identification permitted to identify as S. sclerotiorum (Lib.) de Bary (2) the causal agent of the disease observed on M. spicata. Pathogenicity of one isolate obtained from infected plants was confirmed by inoculating three 7-month-old plants cv. Moroccan transplanted in 1 liter pots in a glasshouse in a sphagnum peat/pomix/pine bark/clay (50:20:20:10) mix. Each plant was inoculated by placing 4 g of sterile wheat kernels infested with mycelium and sclerotia in the soil and around the collar. Three non-inoculated plants served as controls. Plants were maintained in a growth chamber at 24 ± 1°C and relative humidity >90%. The inoculation trial was carried out twice. All inoculated plants developed the symptoms, consisting of stem necrosis, 5 days after soil infestation, followed by leaf yellowing. White cottony mycelium and dark sclerotia developed on stems and at the base of all inoculated plants. Eventually, infected plants wilted. Control plants remained symptomless. S. sclerotiorum was reisolated from the stems of inoculated plants. To our knowledge, this is the first report of S. sclerotiorum on M. spicata in Italy as well as worldwide. The disease has been previously reported on M. piperita in the United States (4) and on M. arvensis in India (3). The economic importance of this disease in Italy is at present limited.
References: (1) S. F. Altschul et al. Nucleic Acids Res. 25:3389, 1997. (2) N. F. Buchwald. Kongl. Veterisk Landb. Aarssk. 75, 1949. (3) K. Perveen et al. Indian Phytopathol. 62:310, 2009. (4) C. B. Skotland and J. D. Menzies. Plant Dis. Rep. 41:493, 1957.