Infection and development of Ustilago syntherismae in Digitaria ciliaris
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Ustilsgo syntherismae (Schwein.) Peck, which causes loose smut of crabgrass, infects its host systemically and destroys seed production. Greenhouse experiments were carried out to investigate the mode of infection, the disease incidence that can be obtained by artificial inoculation and the conditions necessary for optimum infection, cross-infection on southern and smooth crabgrass, and the reasons for the late observance of the disease. U. syntherismse infected southern crabgrass, Digitaria ciliaris (Retz.) Koeler, by both seed-borne and soil-borne teliospore inoculum. Disease incidence was high (84-91%) in some treatments. Higher rates of teliospore application resulted in larger percentages of smutted plants. When infesting the potting mixture, the highest percentages of smutted plants were obtained when infestation and planting were done at the same time. Earlier or later planting resulted in fewer smutted plants. When planting at various depths, greater numbers of smutted plants were obtained when inoculated seed were planted 0.5 to 1.0 cm below the surface versus planting on the surface or at greater depths. The appearance of 50% of infected plants' first panicles (in greenhouse experiments) was delayed by 4.5 weeks compared to the emergence (50%) of first panicles from healthy plants. In cross inoculation experiments, southern and smooth crabgrass plants developed smut only when inoculated with spores collected from large and smooth crabgrass~ respectively.
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