Growth, population dynamics, and diversity of Fusarium equiseti in ginseng fields

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Fusarium equiseti is prevalent in ginseng soil, straw mulch and in ginseng root tissues and is the cause of a root surface discolouration on ginseng grown in British Columbia. Population levels of the fungus in ginseng fields ranged from 3.8′×′103 cfu g−1 soil to 1.4′×′104 cfu g−1 soil and were highest at 0–5 cm soil depths compared to 10–15 cm. Soil population levels were negatively correlated with S content in soil and positively correlated with Zn levels. Barley or wheat straw added to soil significantly increased population levels under laboratory conditions. Mycelial growth in culture was highest at 26–30°C and at pH 7.2–7.8. Samples of flowers and berries, and harvested seed, contained DNA of F. equiseti detected using a Fusarium-specific DNA array and the fungus was isolated from these tissues on agar medium. A high degree of genetic variation in the EF-1 alpha gene sequence was present among 52 isolates of F. equiseti which originated from ginseng fields. At least seven clades were identified. Inoculum dispersal from straw mulch used in ginseng gardens can result in seed contamination by the fungus. In addition, fungal growth near the soil surface under warm summer conditions can result in infection and crown discolouration of ginseng roots.

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