Phytophthora species and oak decline – can a weak competitor cause significant root damage in a nonsterilized acidic forest soil?


Author for correspondence: Ulrika Jönsson Tel: +46 46 222 3745 Fax: +46 46 222 4423 Email:


  • • Phytophthora species in general, and P. quercina in particular, have been suggested in several studies to be a contributing factor to the problem of oak decline in Europe. Although Phytophthora species are generally regarded as weak competitors, few studies of the pathogenicity of species causing root rot on oaks have hitherto been performed in natural, nonsterilized forest soils. This study describes the effects of seven southern Swedish isolates of P. quercina and one isolate of P. cactorum on root vitality of Quercus robur seedlings grown in a natural, nonsterilized, acidic forest soil.
  • • The pathogenicity of P. quercina and P. cactorum were tested using a soil infestation test. The climatic conditions applied were an attempt to simulate summer conditions in southern Sweden.
  • • Both species of Phytophthora caused a significant dieback of fine roots, and necrotic lesions on coarser roots, of Q. robur seedlings. Total and live root lengths were significantly lower in infected seedlings than in controls. No significant effects of Phytophthora on above-ground growth or leaf nutrient concentration were found.
  • • The results demonstrate that P. quercina and P. cactorum can cause substantial root dieback of seedlings of Q. robur in natural, acidic forest soils in competition with the inhabiting soil microflora under a mesic water regime.