E. K. Ligoxigakis, Laboratory of Plant Pathology, Plant Protection Institute of Heraklion, National Agricultural Research Foundation, Heraklion 71003, Crete, Greece;
I. A. Papaioannou, Department of Genetics and Biotechnology, Faculty of Biology, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Panepistimiopolis, Athens 15701, Greece;
E. A. Markakis, Laboratory of Plant Pathology, School of Agricultural Technology, Technological Educational Institute of Crete, Heraklion 71004, Crete, Greece; and
M. A. Typas, Department of Genetics and Biotechnology, Faculty of Biology, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Panepistimiopolis, Athens 15701, Greece
In the spring of 2011, a severe leaf spot disease of Phoenix theophrasti was observed in the vicinity of Heraklion (Crete), Greece. Initial symptoms were small, round-ovoid spots of varying shades of brown on the leaves, later being transformed into oblong streaks (average dimensions 7.3 ± 1.0 × 3.3 ± 0.5 mm), surrounded by dark brown rings. As the disease progressed, the expanding streaks often coalesced to form enlarged necrotic lesions. Similar symptoms were also detected on petioles and leaf bases. Extended spotting and blighting occasionally resulted in leaf death. A filamentous fungus was consistently isolated onto potato dextrose agar plates from the periphery of the characteristic lesions, with cultures invariably producing brick to cinnamon colonies with sparse aerial mycelium, subglobose and dark brown superficial pycnidial conidiomata on pine needles, 1- to 3-celled hyaline conidiophores, and hyaline, subcylindrical to ellipsoidal, 1-celled, smooth- and thin-walled conidia, with average dimensions of 3.5 ± 0.6 × 1.7 ± 0.4 μm (n = 100). Total DNA of two isolates was extracted and used for PCR amplification and sequencing of the ITS1-5.8S-ITS2 region, together with parts of the flanking 18S and 28S rRNA genes (4). Both sequences (GenBank Accession Nos. JX456476 and JX456477) were 100% identical to deposited Paraconiothyrium variabile ITS sequences (EU295640 to 48, JN983440 and 41, and JF934920), and were clustered together as a single group with these sequences with good support by phylogenetic analysis that included representatives of the relative P. brasiliense and P. africanum species. Based on the morphological, molecular, and phylogenetic analyses, the pathogen was identified as P. variabile Riccioni, Damm, Verkley & Crous (2). To prove pathogenicity, 10 P. theophrasti 2-year-old seedlings were sprayed with a conidial suspension of the fungus (107 conidia ml–1, 10 ml per plant), while five additional control plants were treated with sterile distilled water. All plants were maintained in the greenhouse at 15 ± 5°C, with 90% humidity. Characteristic leaf spots were evident 4 weeks post inoculation on the older leaves, and P. variabile was consistently reisolated from all inoculated plants. No symptoms were observed on control plants. Paraconiothyrium variabile has been isolated from various woody host plants such as Prunus persica, P. salicina, and Malus sp. in South Africa (1,2), Actinidia chinensis and A. deliciosa in Italy (2), Laurus nobilis in Turkey (2), and Salix matsudana in China (3). To our knowledge, this is the first report of P. variabile naturally infecting and causing a leaf spot disease on a palm species. Palms are extensively used as ornamentals throughout Greece and the occurrence of P. variabile can potentially result in economic loss to the local ornamental industry.
References: (1) M. Cloete et al. Phytopathol. Mediterr. 50:S176, 2011. (2) U. Damm et al. Persoonia 20:9, 2008. (3) H. Gao et al. Afr. J. Biotechnol. 10:4166, 2011. (4) M. P. Pantou et al. Mycol. Res. 109:889, 2005.