Sensitivity to pH and ability to modify ambient pH of the take-all fungus Gaeumannomyces graminis var. tritici



pH is one of the major ambient factors affecting life history traits of soilborne phytopathogenic fungi. The diversity of phenotypic responses to pH changes has not been extensively explored within fungal populations. To investigate this question, the ability of 82 strains of a worldwide collection of the take-all agent Gaeumannomyces graminis var. tritici (Ggt) to grow in controlled pH conditions, reflecting their pH sensitivity, was measured. Of these 82 strains, 37 belonged to the G1 type and 45 to the G2 type, the two main genetic groups identified in Ggt populations. The experiments were conducted in Petri dishes on Fahraeus solid media buffered at pH 4·6, 6·0 or 7·0 with citrate–disodium phosphate solutions. The 82 strains exhibited a wide range of hyphal growth rates at the three pH levels. Ten statistically different pH profiles were described. The G2 strains grew significantly better than the G1 on the slightly acidic (pH 6·0) and the neutral (pH 7·0) buffered media. The ability of three strains to change ambient pH was also measured on unbuffered Fahraeus solid media initially adjusted to pH 5·6 or 8·0. All three strains were able to alkalinize the acidic medium. However, important variations between strains in the intensity, range and persistence of this alkalinization were measured. These results provide the first evidence of intraspecific variability in pH sensitivity within soilborne fungal species.