Fusarium culmorum: causal agent of foot and root rot and head blight on wheat

Authors

  • Barbara Scherm,

    1. Dipartimento di Agraria—Sezione di Patologia Vegetale ed Entomologia and Centro Interdisciplinare per lo Sviluppo della Ricerca Biotecnologica e per lo Studio della Biodiversità della Sardegna e dell'Area Mediterranea, Università degli Studi di Sassari, Sassari, Italy
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Virgilio Balmas,

    1. Dipartimento di Agraria—Sezione di Patologia Vegetale ed Entomologia and Centro Interdisciplinare per lo Sviluppo della Ricerca Biotecnologica e per lo Studio della Biodiversità della Sardegna e dell'Area Mediterranea, Università degli Studi di Sassari, Sassari, Italy
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Francesca Spanu,

    1. Dipartimento di Agraria—Sezione di Patologia Vegetale ed Entomologia and Centro Interdisciplinare per lo Sviluppo della Ricerca Biotecnologica e per lo Studio della Biodiversità della Sardegna e dell'Area Mediterranea, Università degli Studi di Sassari, Sassari, Italy
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Giovanna Pani,

    1. Dipartimento di Agraria—Sezione di Patologia Vegetale ed Entomologia and Centro Interdisciplinare per lo Sviluppo della Ricerca Biotecnologica e per lo Studio della Biodiversità della Sardegna e dell'Area Mediterranea, Università degli Studi di Sassari, Sassari, Italy
    2. Istituto CNR di Chimica Biomolecolare, Sassari,, Italy
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Giovanna Delogu,

    1. Istituto CNR di Chimica Biomolecolare, Sassari,, Italy
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Matias Pasquali,

    1. Centre de Recherche—Gabriel Lippmann, Belvaux, Luxembourg
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Quirico Migheli

    Corresponding author
    • Dipartimento di Agraria—Sezione di Patologia Vegetale ed Entomologia and Centro Interdisciplinare per lo Sviluppo della Ricerca Biotecnologica e per lo Studio della Biodiversità della Sardegna e dell'Area Mediterranea, Università degli Studi di Sassari, Sassari, Italy
    Search for more papers by this author

Correspondence: Email: qmigheli@uniss.it

Summary

Fusarium culmorum is a ubiquitous soil-borne fungus able to cause foot and root rot and Fusarium head blight on different small-grain cereals, in particular wheat and barley. It causes significant yield and quality losses and results in contamination of the grain with mycotoxins. This review summarizes recent research activities related to F. culmorum, including studies into its population diversity, mycotoxin biosynthesis, mechanisms of pathogenesis and resistance, the development of diagnostic tools and preliminary genome sequence surveys. We also propose potential research areas that may expand our basic understanding of the wheat–F. culmorum interaction and assist in the management of the disease caused by this pathogen.

Taxonomy

Fusarium culmorum (W.G. Smith) Sacc. Kingdom Fungi; Phylum Ascomycota; Subphylum Pezizomycotina; Class Sordariomycetes; Subclass Hypocreomycetidae; Order Hypocreales; Family Nectriaceae; Genus Fusarium.

Disease symptoms

Foot and root rot (also known as Fusarium crown rot): seedling blight with death of the plant before or after emergence; brown discoloration on roots and coleoptiles of the infected seedlings; brown discoloration on subcrown internodes and on the first two/three internodes of the main stem; tiller abortion; formation of whiteheads with shrivelled white grains; Fusarium head blight: prematurely bleached spikelets or blighting of the entire head, which remains empty or contains shrunken dark kernels.

Identification and detection

Morphological identification is based on the shape of the macroconidia formed on sporodochia on carnation leaf agar. The conidiophores are branched monophialides, short and wide. The macroconidia are relatively short and stout with an apical cell blunt or slightly papillate; the basal cell is foot-shaped or just notched. Macroconidia are thick-walled and curved, usually 3–5 septate, and mostly measuring 30–50 × 5.0–7.5 μm. Microconidia are absent. Oval to globose chlamydospores are formed, intercalary in the hyphae, solitary, in chains or in clumps; they are also formed from macroconidia. The colony grows very rapidly (1.6–2.2 cm/day) on potato dextrose agar (PDA) at the optimum temperature of 25 °C. The mycelium on PDA is floccose, whitish, light yellow or red. The pigment on the reverse plate on PDA varies from greyish-rose, carmine red or burgundy. A wide array of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and real-time PCR tools, as well as complementary methods, which are summarised in the first two tables, have been developed for the detection and/or quantification of F. culmorum in culture and in naturally infected plant tissue.

Host range

Fusarium culmorum has a wide range of host plants, mainly cereals, such as wheat, barley, oats, rye, corn, sorghum and various grasses. In addition, it has been isolated from sugar beet, flax, carnation, bean, pea, asparagus, red clover, hop, leeks, Norway spruce, strawberry and potato tuber. Fusarium culmorum has also been associated with dermatitis on marram grass planters in the Netherlands, although its role as a causal agent of skin lesions appears questionable. It is also isolated as a symbiont able to confer resistance to abiotic stress, and has been proposed as a potential biocontrol agent to control the aquatic weed Hydrilla spp.

Useful websites

http://isolate.fusariumdb.org/; http://sppadbase.ipp.cnr.it/; http://www.broad.mit.edu/annotation/genome/fusarium_group/MultiHome.html; http://www.fgsc.net/Fusarium/fushome.htm; http://plantpath.psu.edu/facilities/fusarium-research-center; http://www.phi-base.org/; http://www.uniprot.org/; http://www.cabi.org/; http://www.indexfungorum.org/

Ancillary