A screening of Castanea sativa scions for grafting for the presence of endophytes showed that the opportunistic fungal pathogen Gnomoniopsis smithogilvyi was the most abundant member of the endophytic flora. This fungus is known as a pathogen affecting chestnut fruits in Italy and Australia. Here, we present evidence that it causes cankers very similar to the ones due to Cryphonectria parasitica infection on twigs and scions of chestnut trees. We found natural infections of G. smithogilvyi in healthy grafted plants as well as in scions from chestnut trees. The identity of the fungus isolated from asymptomatic tissues was verified by applying Koch's postulates and corroborated by DNA sequencing of four different gene regions. In contrast to C. parasitica that appears on the bark as yellow to orange pycnidia, stromata and slimy twisted tendrils, G. smithogilvyi forms orange to red and black pycnidia, gray stromata and cream-colored to beige slimy twisted tendrils on the bark. These Swiss strains are closely related to G. smithogilvyi strains from Australia and from New Zealand, Gnomoniopsis sp. and Gnomoniopsis castanea from New Zealand, Italy, France and Switzerland. While the strains from Ticino are genetically very close to G. smithogilvyi and G. castanea from Italy, the differences between the strains from Ticino and Geneva suggest two different origins. The present study supports the hypothesis that a single species named G. smithogilvyi, which is known to be the agent of chestnut rot, also causes wood cankers on chestnut.
Keywords: Castanea sativa; Chestnut blight; Chestnut rot; Cryphonectria parasitica; Endophyte; Gnomoniopsis smithogilvyi.
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