The Role of Snails and Ants in Transmitting the Avocado Stem Canker Pathogen, Phytophthora citricola

in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science

The sugary exudate appearing on bark lesions of Persea americana Miller and Persea indica plants after infection with Phytophthora citricola contained viable oospores and hyphal fragments in the field and in the greenhouse. This sugary exudate was a source of inoculum and dispersal of the pathogen within and between avocado plants. Spraying water onto lesions moved inoculum from the sugary exudate to wounds below. Water from sprinkler irrigation washed propagules into the soil around the plants. Viable propagules of Phytophthora citricola were identified in the feces of snails (Helix aspersa) that had fed on infected bark tissues. When these snails were moved to healthy plants, they made wounds on succulent tissue, and the infectious feces induced cankers. Ants (Iridomyrmex humilis) were attracted to the sugary exudate and also transmitted infectious propagules to wounds on avocado stems and to the soil. Control strategy for the avocado stem canker disease should consider control of vectors.

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