E. K. Ligoxigakis, Laboratory of Plant Pathology, Plant Protection Institute of Heraklion, National Agricultural Research Foundation, Heraklion 71003, Crete, Greece;
E. A. Markakis, Laboratory of Plant Pathology, Institute for Olive Tree and Subtropical Plants of Chania, Agrokipio 73100, Crete, Greece; and
I. A. Papaioannou and
M. A. Typas, Department of Genetics and Biotechnology, Faculty of Biology, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Panepistimiopolis, Athens 15701, Greece
London planetrees (Platanus × acerifolia, syn. P. × hispanica), American sycamores (P. occidentalis), and oriental planes (P. orientalis) are widely planted as urban shade trees throughout Greece and many other countries. In June 2012, typical symptoms of a powdery mildew were detected on all sycamores (10 trees) along a central avenue of Heraklion (Crete, Greece), with the disease affecting approximately 80% of the leaves of all infected trees. In August 2013, similar symptoms were observed on 20% of the leaves of all three London planes in a small grove in the Vrysses area of Lasithi (Crete, Greece). In both cases, the disease was severe, with white superficial colonies developing amphigenously on leaves, twigs, floral peduncles, inflorescences, and fruits. The colonies were initially distinct and circular but gradually enlarged and often coalesced to cover the entire leaf blade. Young leaves appeared curled and chlorotic, occasionally leading to defoliation. For the morphological description of the pathogen, samples from seven infected P. occidentalis and three P. × acerifolia trees were microscopically characterized. In all samples, the pathogen's mycelium was branched, septate, and hyaline, with lobed appressoria; conidiophores were erect, cylindrical, unbranched, and consisted of three to four (to five) cells; and conidia were single or in short chains (two to four), ellipsoid or doliiform, with a truncated base and rounded apex. Their dimensions were 24.3 to 48.6 × 15.8 to 27.9 μm (averaging 39.2 × 21.2 μm; n = 100), and their surfaces appeared reticulate. The teleomorph was never observed. Total fungal DNA was extracted from conidia harvested from affected leaves of one infected plant of each of P. occidentalis and P. × acerifolia planes, and the ITS1-5.8S-ITS2 region was PCR-amplified with universal primers 18S-ITS1 and 28S-ITS2 (2) and sequenced (GenBank Accession Nos. KM068123 and KM068124, respectively). A BLASTn search of GenBank revealed 100% identity of both samples to Erysiphe platani strains described on P. orientalis in Greece (JQ365943) and P. occidentalis in Brazil (KF499270). Based on the morphological and molecular analyses, the pathogen was identified as E. platani (Howe) U. Braun & S. Takam. (formerly known as Microsphaera platani Howe) (1). To prove pathogenicity and fulfill Koch's postulates, 10 1-year-old seedlings of each of P. occidentalis and P. × acerifolia hosts were artificially inoculated with conidia obtained from naturally infected plants of the corresponding species, with two methods: (i) five plants of each host were dusted with conidia from diseased leaves, and (ii) the remaining five seedlings of each plane were sprayed with a conidial suspension of the fungus (107 conidia ml−1), while five additional control plants of each species were treated only with sterile distilled water. All plants were maintained in the greenhouse at 25 ± 3°C, with 90% humidity. Powdery mildew symptoms, which appeared 9 and 15 days after inoculation on all dusted and sprayed plants, respectively, were similar to those observed on naturally infected trees, whereas no symptoms were observed on control plants. Although E. platani is known to infect plane species in several parts of the world (1), including oriental planes (P. orientalis and P. orientalis var. cretica) in Greece (3), this is the first report of E. platani causing disease of P. occidentalis and P. × acerifolia in Greece, underlining the need for appropriate control measures to prevent significant losses to the local ornamental industry.
References: (1) U. Braun and R. T. A. Cook. Taxonomic Manual of the Erysiphales (Powdery Mildews), CBS Biodiversity Series No. 11. CBS, Utrecht, 2012. (2) I. A. Papaioannou et al. Eur. J. Plant Pathol. 136:577, 2013. (3) D. J. Vakalounakis and E. Klironomou. EPPO Bull. 25:463, 1995.