Date of Award

5-2011

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Major

Entomology and Plant Pathology

Major Professor

Mark T. Windham

Committee Members

Alan S. Windham, William E. Klingeman, Arnold M. Saxton

Abstract

Discula destructiva, the causal agent of dogwood anthracnose, has caused severe mortality in dogwood over the last 30 years. Although considerable research has been done with dogwood anthracnose, the infection process by D. destructiva is still obscure. A resistant cultivar of Cornus florida, ‘Appalachian Spring’, was discovered and released by the Tennessee Agricultural Experiment Station. However, the resistance mechanisms are unknown. The objectives of this research were 1) to determine the sequence of events in the infection process of D. destructiva in C. florida and 2) to determine how host resistance affects infection events of D. destructiva on flowering dogwood.

At 3 days after inoculation (DAI), majority of conidia germinated and hyphae were observed on the leaf surface. Direct penetration by D. destructiva hyphae was observed without appressorium formation. At 8 DAI, hyphae were aggregated between the cuticle and epidermis and grew intracellularly in epidermal cells, palisade parachyma, and spongy mesophyll cells. At 16 DAI, chloroplasts were intact but decompartmentalized and infection sites were clearly defined. Acervuli were detected at 20 DAI and were fully developed at 24 DAI on adaxial and abaxial leaf surfaces. Sporulation (ruptured acervuli) was observed at 20 DAI. This clear understanding of the infection process can be used to look for resistance mechanisms in dogwood germplasm. A resistant line would expect to slow or inhibit one or more infection events.

There was no statistical difference between the percentages of germinated conidia on susceptible and resistant cultivars of flowering dogwood one day after inoculation (DAI). However, the resistant cultivar, ‘Appalachian Spring’, significantly suppressed the growth of D. destructiva conidial germ tubes at 2 DAI, 3 DAI and 4 DAI when compared to conidial germ tubes on leaves of the susceptible cultivar ‘Cloud 9’. Observed resistance may be due to smoother wax crystals on adaxial leaf surface and significantly thicker cuticle observed on leaves of ‘Appalachian Spring’. An unknown compound, observed highly concentrated in resistant but lower in susceptible cultivars, may be important as a resistance mechanism. These strategies reduced the inoculum potential of D. destructiva and play important roles in why ‘Appalachian Spring’ is resistant to dogwood anthracnose. These results provide new ways to use conidia germination test and germ tube growth measurement for detecting resistant cultivars.

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