Leaf spot disease caused by Cercospora beticola Sacc. is the most destructive foliar pathogen of sugarbeet worldwide. In addition to reducing yield and quality of sugarbeet, the control of leaf spot disease by extensive fungicide application incurs added costs to producers and repeatedly has selected for fungicide-tolerant C. beticola strains. The genetics and biochemistry of virulence have been examined less for C. beticola as compared with the related fungi C. nicotianae, C. kikuchii and C. zeae-maydis, fungi to which the physiology of C. beticola is often compared. C. beticola populations generally are not characterized as having race structure, although a case of race-specific resistance in sugarbeet to C. beticola has been reported. Resistance currently implemented in the field is quantitatively inherited and exhibits low to medium heritability.
Taxonomy: Cercospora beticola Sacc.; Kingdom Fungi, Subdivision Deuteromycetes, Class Hyphomycetes, Order Hyphales, Genus Cercospora.
Identification: Circular, brown to red delimited spots with ashen-grey centre, 0.5–6 mm diameter; dark brown to black stromata against grey background; pale brown unbranched sparingly septate conidiophores, hyaline acicular conidia, multiseptate, from 2.5 to 4 µm wide and 50–200 µm long.
Host range: Propagative on Beta vulgaris and most species of Beta. Reported on members of the Chenopodiaceae and on Amaranthus.
Disease symptoms: Infected leaves and petioles of B. vulgaris exhibit numerous circular leaf spots that coalesce in severe cases causing complete leaf collapse. Dark specks within a grey spot centre are characteristic for the disease. Older leaves exhibit a greater number of lesions with larger spot diameter. During the latter stage of severe epiphytotics, new leaf growth can be seen emerging from the plant surrounded by prostrate, collapsed leaves.
Control: Fungicides in the benzimidazole and triazole class as well as organotin derivatives and strobilurins have successfully been used to control Cercospora leaf spot. Elevated levels of tolerance in populations of C. beticola to some of the chemicals registered for control has been documented. Partial genetic resistance also is used to reduce leaf spot disease.