Quantitative Fusarium spp. and Microdochium spp. PCR assays to evaluate seed treatments for the control of Fusarium seedling blight of wheat.
Aims: To develop sensitive quantitative PCR assays for the two groups of pathogens responsible for Fusarium seedling blight in wheat: Fusarium group (Fusarium culmorum and Fusarium graminearum) and Microdochium group (Microdochium nivale and Microdochium majus); and to use the assays to assess performance of fungicide seed treatments against each group. Methods and Results: Primers conserved between the species within each group were used to develop competitive PCR assays and used to quantify DNA of each group in wheat seed produced from inoculated field plots. Seed was used in seed treatment efficacy field experiments and the amount of DNA of each group was determined in emerged seedlings. The performance of treatments towards each group of pathogens was evaluated by comparison of the reduction in DNA in seedlings emerged from treated seed compared with untreated seed. Conclusions: DNA from the two groups of pathogens causing Fusarium seedling blight of wheat can be quantified separately using the competitive PCR assays. These assays show improved sensitivity compared with those previously reported for the individual species and allowed the quantification of pathogen DNA in seed and seedlings. Significant reductions in pathogen DNA were evident for each seed treatment. Significance and Impact of the Study: Quantification of DNA for each group allows the evaluation of seed treatment performance towards the two components of Fusarium seedling blight disease complex. The approach taken and the assays developed in this study will be of use for the study of other Fusarium disease complexes and their control. Based on the results reported here on the seedling stage of crop development, further studies that examine the control of seed-borne pathogens through fungicide seed treatments throughout the growing season are warranted.