Labyrinthula terrestris: a new pathogen of cool-season turfgrasses


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A new disease of turfgrass known as rapid blight is caused by Labyrinthula terrestris, a newly described member of the Labyrinthulids. This unusual group of microorganisms previously has been found in marine systems, and L. terrestris is the only member of the genus Labyrinthula known to be a pathogen of terrestrial plants. Members of this genus are defined by the formation of ectoplasmic networks in which the unicellular somatic cells move or ‘glide’. Infections of cool-season turfgrasses occur most commonly when they are irrigated with suboptimal irrigation water with elevated salinity. Disease has been observed in 11 states in the United States and in the United Kingdom. A phylogenetic study indicates that isolates from turfgrass in the United States fall firmly within a clade containing other Labyrinthula spp. and that they came from a common lineage. Its rapid emergence as a turfgrass pathogen may coincide with increased use of relatively high-salinity water or reclaimed water for irrigation. L. terrestris is a potential problem in susceptible turfgrass varieties wherever soil salinity is allowed to accumulate as a result of poor soil structure or suboptimal quality irrigation water is used for irrigation.