A methodology to evaluate disease severity: a case study of chestnut blight in El Bierzo region (northwestern Spain)

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Correct knowledge of the incidence and severity of disease is essential for implementation of timely and effective management control strategies. In this article, multiple correspondence analysis (MCA) is applied to evaluate the severity of chestnut blight incited by the ascomyceteous fungus Cryphonectria parasitica. This economically important bark disease leads to the loss of an important part of the chestnut production and the progressive death of the tree. A total of 7240 living European chestnut (Castanea sativa) trees across 452 plots were surveyed in El Bierzo, NW Spain. For each tree, the main stem and canopy were visually assessed for signs of the pathogen and/or symptoms of the disease and the extent of the disease was classified on a qualitative ordinal scale consisting of six levels. The statistical procedure is useful because it quickly analyses measurable, discrete observations from assessed individuals to provide a disease severity measure related to tree features and disease extension inside the tree. The results indicated that the penetration of the pathogen is located in the lower part of the crown and spreads to the tips of the branches in the upper part of the crown. Thus, our results suggest that man-made wounds, when the tree was grafted or pruned, are the main channel of pathogen penetration in El Bierzo region. Disease severity estimates and incidence data for C. parasitica across the region were compared. From the perspective of the management and control of the disease, a disease severity value provides a more accurate indication of the scenario of the disease in a region than presence or absence data alone.

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