Phytophthora cinnamomi is a highly virulent root rot pathogen of highbush blueberry and is present in most growing regions worldwide (Strik and Yarborough, 2005; Zentmyer, 1980). Symptoms of infection include poor shoot growth, root necrosis and dieback, yellowing or reddening leaves, marginal leaf necrosis, early leaf senescence, and, in the most severe cases, dead branches and canes and plant death (Caruso and Ramsdell, 1995). Root infection is more prevalent when plants are irrigated by drip than by sprinklers and occurs most commonly in heavy soils and poorly drained sites (Bryla and Linderman, 2007; de Silva et al., 1999).
Mefenoxam and phosphite (phosphonate) fungicides and certain production practices such as raised planting beds, tile drains, and proper irrigation management can help prevent phytophthora root rot (Brannen et al., 2009; Bryla and Linderman, 2007; Sterne, 1982). However, genetic resistance is currently the most effective means to control the disease (Bryla et al., 2008). The level of resistance to P. cinnamomi is known to vary among cultivars, but most studies have focused on rabbiteye (Vaccinium ashei Reade) or southern highbush blueberry (V. corymbosum L. interspecific hybrids) (Larach et al., 2009; Smith, 2002). Only a limited number of studies have examined differences in root rot among northern highbush cultivars (V. corymbosum) (Bryla et al., 2008; Erb et al., 1987). Milholland and Galletta (1967) found that northern highbush blueberry was generally more susceptible to phytophthora root rot than rabbiteye blueberry.
The objective of this study was to evaluate the response of highbush blueberry cultivars and advanced selections to P. cinnamomi and identify the most resistant genotypes to the pathogen. By choosing cultivars with more resistance to P. cinnamomi, growers may reduce economic losses related to the disease.
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