Re-use of seedling containers and Fusarium circinatum association with asymptomatic Pinus patula planting stock

08 Sep 2015

Fusarium circinatum is a pathogen causing serious post-planting mortality of Pinus patula seedlings in southern Africa. Containerised planting stock that is asymptomatic but associated with F. circinatum in the nursery is thought to be the cause of this problem. The aim of this study was to determine if re-use of seedling containers could be a source of inoculum resulting in asymptomatic planting stock and increased post-planting mortality of P. patula. Two experiments were conducted in successive years comparing nursery cull of symptomatic seedlings, seedling growth, association of F. circinatum with asymptomatic seedlings and post-planting mortality for crops raised in re-used containers, with and without sanitation, and factory-new containers. Each experiment consisted of a nursery production trial followed by out-planting into pots to assess post-planting mortality. Our results show that re-use of containers without sanitation increases the cull of symptomatic seedlings, incidence of F. circinatum associated with asymptomatic seedlings and post-planting mortality compared with the re-use of containers after steam sanitation or factory-new containers. Growth of asymptomatic seedlings was unaffected by container treatment or association with F. circinatum and in the absence of wilt symptoms the root system did not exhibit typical discolouration. Watering frequency did not influence post-planting mortality in pots. The comparison of two open-pollinated seed mixes of P. patula that, based on seedling stem inoculation screening, represented susceptible and tolerant material did not show differences in nursery cull or post-planting mortality. This work demonstrated that natural contamination of re-used containers can be a primary source of inoculum producing asymptomatic seedlings associated with F. circinatum that will succumb to the pathogen after field planting. The process of seedling infection, apparent latent infection in the seedling and expression of disease after planting needs greater understanding to improve nursery hygiene measures to control this disease.