• alfalfa;
  • Phytophthora root rot;
  • real-time PCR


A real-time fluorescent PCR assay using a set of specific primers and a fluorochrome-labelled probe (TaqMan) was developed to quantify the amount of Phytophthora medicaginis DNA in alfalfa plants that were classified as either resistant or susceptible to the pathogen based on visual assessment of disease response. The assay clearly discriminated among three standard check alfalfa populations with different levels of resistance based on the analysis of DNA extracted from the roots of bulked plant samples. In two independent experiments, the Spearman rank correlation between pathogen DNA content and the number of susceptible plants in a bulked sample was greater than 0.89 and highly significant (P<0.0001). Significantly less pathogen DNA was detected in bulked samples of a highly resistant check population than in bulked samples from more susceptible check populations. Analysis of individual plants indicated that significantly less pathogen DNA was detected in resistant plants than in susceptible plants. Applications of the assay are considered for breeding programs and the study of microbial population dynamics in plants simultaneously infected with different pathogens.