Magnaporthe oryzaeconidia on basal wheat leaves as a potential source of wheat blast inoculum

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Wheat blast caused by Magnaporthe oryzae Triticum causes significant losses on wheat during outbreak years in several South American countries. Despite reports of wheat blast leaf lesions on some wheat cultivars, the importance of inoculum originating from leaves in severely affected commercial fields is disputed. It is generally considered that leaf lesions and/or sporulation on leaves do not usually appear before the occurrence of spike blast in wheat. The purpose of this study was to (i) determine the occurrence of wheat blast on basal leaves, (ii) estimate the number of conidia produced on these leaves, and (iii) determine the impact of current fungicide application practices on inoculum produced from sporulating lesions on basal wheat leaves. Inoculations at the three-leaf stage showed that certain cultivar and isolate combinations caused more disease on old wheat leaves than young expanding leaves. Under optimum conditions, M. oryzae had the potential to produce tens to hundreds of thousands of conidia on small amounts of wheat basal leaves. A mean of 1 669 000 conidia were produced on 1 g dry basal leaves of a highly susceptible cultivar under optimum conditions for sporulation. Conidia production on leaves coincided with spike emergence under both greenhouse and field conditions. When field studies were conducted under natural epidemic conditions, foliar fungicide applications reduced the amount of M. oryzae conidia on basal leaves by 62–77% compared to non-sprayed controls. An earlier application of foliar fungicides might reduce inoculum if conidia from basal leaves contribute to wheat spike blast development.

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