Sonreli, K.L. et al. 2020. Plant Disease

An outbreak of Septoria cancer caused by Sphaerulina musciva on Populus trichocarpa in eastern Oregon

Kelsey L. Sonreli, Susanna Kerlö, Wellington Muchero, Jin-Gui Chen, Kathy Halby, Carlos Gantz, Gerald A. Tuskan, and Jared M. LeBoldus
19 June 2020, Plant Disease; doi: 10.1094/PDIS-03-20-0494-PDN


Branch and stem cankers were observed in a Populus trichocarpa L. plantation in late summer of 2018 near Boardman, Oregon USA. Stem cankers were flat faced with swollen margins and the bark in the center of the cankers was black and depressed (Figure 1). 254 out of 1054 trees (25%) observed had cankers. Symptomatic stems and branches from several trees were brought to Oregon State University for identification. Cankers were surface-disinfested in a 5% NaOCl for 2 min and rinsed twice in deionized H2O for 2 min. Bark was removed from cankers and pieces of wood at the margin between healthy and necrotic tissue were plated on KV8 medium amended with streptomycin sulfate at 100 mg liter–1 and chloramphenicol (Amresco) at 240 mg liter–1 (Dunnell and LeBoldus 2017). Eight sporulating colonies typical of Sphaerulina musiva (Peck) Quaedvlieg, Verkley, and Crous (Syn. = Septoria musiva Peck) developed within 7 days of plating. S. musiva was identified by morphological characteristics (conidium size = 28–54 × 3.5–4 µm) and confirmed by comparing the sequence of the ITS region (accession numbers: MN275180-MN275187) to JX901814 with 99% identity. We tested 13 additional cankers collected from the plantation using S. musiva specific primers (Abraham et al. 2018). Eight of the 13 samples were positive for S. musiva DNA. Dormant cuttings from three genotypes of P. trichocarpa (BESC-184; BESC-259; BESC-388) were collected in a field planting near Oregon State University (OSU). These were planted in cone-tainers in the greenhouse at OSU and grown to approximately 30 cm in height. Four replicates of each of the three genotypes were inoculated in the greenhouse with one Oregon isolate using a suspension of 1×106 conidia ml-1. The entire tree was sprayed until runoff using a spray bottle (LeBoldus et al. 2010). The experimental design was a completely randomized design with four replicates of each genotype. Sterile deionized H20 was sprayed on one control tree of each genotype. The mean number of resulting cankers were BESC-184 = 11, BESC-259 = 1, and BESC-388 = 13.75. The controls did not develop any cankers. The pathogen was successfully reisolated from one canker from each genotype. Sphaerulina musiva can cause severely damagingleaf spot and stem canker diseases in the eastern and central USA and Canada (Bier 1939; Herath et al. 2016). Susceptible Populus species and hybrids develop cankers which can girdle and weaken stems, leading to breakage or tree death (Bier 1939). A previous survey of the region did not detect S. musiva (Newcombe et al. 1995). This outbreak of Septoria canker underscores the potential threat of this pathogen to P. trichocarpa in the Pacific Northwest where it is a keystone species in riparian ecosystems.


Dr. Kelsey Liann Sondreli, Dr. Susanna Keriö, Dr. Kenneth Frost, Dr. Wellington Muchero, Dr. Jin-Gui Chen, Mrs. Kathy Haiby, Mr. Carlos Gantz, Dr. Gerald Tuskan, and Dr. Jared M. LeBoldus
Plant Disease

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