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Summary

We investigated variation in virulence of Cryphonectria hypovirus 1 (CHV-1) to the chestnut blight fungus, Cryphonectria parasitica, in Macedonia by inoculating chestnut stems in the field. We inoculated trees with two isolates of C. parasitica, each infected with one of five isolates of CHV-1, four of which were the same for both fungal isolates. Two virus isolates, [Sk28] and [Sk47], were significantly more virulent than the others when compared in the same fungal host isolates, as measured by reduced canker growth and increased callus formation. Mycelial growth rate in vitro was weakly correlated to canker growth or callus formation and is therefore not a reliable predictor for virulence. We found significant fungus × virus interactions for canker growth and callus formation, which seems due mainly to one virus isolate. Significant interactions were not expected because the two fungal host isolates are members of the same clone that is dominant in Macedonia and most of southeastern Europe. Phenotypic variation for response to viruses, therefore, is greater than variation revealed by the genetic markers used to define clones. More than half of the trees inoculated with virus-free controls were dead within 2 years, and the 30% still alive after 5 years had cankers with extensive callus formation, indicating that natural virus transmission had occurred after inoculation. In contrast, only 2% of the trees inoculated with virus-infected isolates were dead after 5 years. Hypoviruses naturally occurring in Macedonia reduce canker development and tree mortality similarly to those in other parts of southern Europe, and therefore, may have good potential for biological control of chestnut blight.