DOI: 10.3390/f15010051 ISSN: 1999-4907

Botryosphaeriaceae Species Associated with Stem Canker, Shoot Blight and Dieback of Fraxinus ornus in Italy

Alessandra Benigno, Chiara Aglietti, Giovanni Rossetto, Carlo Bregant, Benedetto Teodoro Linaldeddu, Salvatore Moricca
  • Forestry

A severe dieback of flowering ash (Fraxinus ornus L.) has been observed in north-central Italy in the last decades. Symptoms include typical sunken, light-brown cankers on the stem and branches; vascular discoloration; tip and shoot dieback; and foliage necroses. The disease was more evident at the beginning of the growing season, and more severe on young regeneration. Six Botryosphaeriaceae species were consistently isolated from symptomatic plant tissues: Botryosphaeria dothidea, Diplodia fraxini, Diplodia subglobosa, Dothiorella iberica, Dothiorella omnivora and Neofusicoccum parvum. B. dothidea and D. fraxini expressed higher aggressiveness and showed a widespread incidence, being the species most frequently associated with cankers; the other four species were less virulent and more erratic, occurring mainly on succulent branch tips and foliage. Isolates were characterized using morphological and molecular approaches (colony/conidial phenotyping and rDNA-ITS genotyping). Phylogenetic analysis provided congruent phylogenies depicting the relationships of the six taxa with the most closely related conspecifics. Pathogenicity tests on 2-year-old seedlings confirmed the higher virulence of B. dothidea and D. fraxini. Extensive, multi-year field surveys at different sites supported the hypothesis that climatic vagaries, mainly heat, water and drought stresses, impaired tree health and vigor, facilitating infection and pervasive colonization by these Botryosphaeriaceae species. Environmental stressors are thus the key factor bringing the six fungal pathogens together in a multitrophic interaction with F. ornus in a novel, lethal fashion.

More from our Archive