Tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum L.) was an important economic crop in China. A survey in Yunnan Province in the last several years showed that the incidence of tobacco root rot was 3 to 30%. In July 2021, root rot symptoms were observed with an average incidence of 5% on tobacco (cultivar Yunyan 87) in Dali (25.61° N, 100.27° E). Typical disease symptoms included plants stunted at early stages, brown-colored withering lower leaves and roots that became brown. Under high humidity conditions, symptoms of rot expanded in the roots, also the whole plant became wilted and stunted, and some plants ultimately died. Infected pieces of stem tissues and root were dissected and then sterilized with 2% NaOCl for 30 s, rinsed three times with sterile distilled water, and dried with sterilized filter paper. Three pieces were plated onto potato dextrose agar (PDA) for 3 days at 25°C with a 12-h light period. Colonies on PDA were characterized by white to pale yellow flocculent aerial mycelium, and a pink to red pigment in the agar. To induce sporulation, mycelium on PDA was transferred to carnation leaf agar (CLA) medium. After incubation for 7 days, a single spore was isolated from representative isolate 21DL16 for morphological and molecular analyses. Macroconidia observed on CLA were falcate, slightly curved, three to five septate, measured 33.1 to 53.7 × 3.2 to 4.6 μm (n=50), with a typical foot shaped basal cell. Morphological characteristics of the fungus were in agreement with the description of Fusarium graminearum (Leslie and Summerell 2006). For further identification, the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region rDNA, translation elongation factor 1ɑ (EF-1α) and RNA polymerase II second largest subunit (RPB2) gene were amplified and sequenced using primers ITS1/ITS4 (White et al. 1990), EF1/EF2 (O'Donnell et al. 2015) and RPB2-5F/RPB2-7cR (Reeb et al. 2004), respectively. Although the ITS sequence (GenBank accession no. OM392025) cannot distinguish F. meridionale from F. graminearum, combined phylogenetic analysis of the sequence of TEF1 (ON062055) and RPB2 (ON211932) clearly showed that the pathogen is F. meridionale that the sequences were 100% similarity, 0.0e-value and 100% query coverage to F. meridionale. Pathogenicity studies were conducted on six-leaf-stage tobacco seedlings cultivar Yunyan 87. A conidial suspension (1×105 spores/mL) was poured over the roots of tobacco seedlings. Three seedlings were treated with sterile water that served as controls. All 10 seedlings were maintained at 25°C at 70% relative humidity. After 5 days, the lower leaves showed symptoms of wilting and the roots of all inoculated seedlings become discolored, that were similar with the original symptoms, whereas the control seedlings did not develop symptoms. The fungus reisolated from the inoculated seedlings was identical to F. meridionale using the EF-1α gene sequence. To date, Fusarium root rot on tobacco in China was caused by F. oxysporium (Chen 2013). However, to the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of F. meridionale causing root rot on tobacco in China. Identification of F. meridionale as a root rot agent might provide important insight for disease management practices on tobacco caused by Fusarium species.
Keywords: Fusarium Root Rot; Fusarium meridionale; Tobacco.