Root infections may challenge management of invasive Phytophthora spp. in U.K. woodlands.
Because sporulation of Phytophthora ramorum and P. kernoviae on Rhododendron ponticum, an invasive plant, serves as primary inoculum for trunk infections on trees, R. ponticum clearance from pathogen-infested woodlands is pivotal to inoculum management. The efficacy of clearance for long-term disease management is unknown, in part due to lack of knowledge of pathogen persistence in roots and emerging seedlings. The main objectives of this work were to (i) investigate whether both pathogens infect R. ponticum roots, (ii) determine the potential for residual inoculum of P. kernoviae to infect R. ponticum seedlings in cleared woodlands, and (iii) assess potential for R. ponticum roots to support survival and transmission of P. kernoviae. Roots of R. ponticum were collected from both unmanaged and cleared woodlands and assessed for pathogen recovery. Both P. ramorum and P. kernoviae were recovered from asymptomatic roots of R. ponticum in unmanaged woodlands, and P. kernoviae was recovered from asymptomatic roots from seedlings in cleared woodland. Oospore production of P. kernoviae was observed in naturally infected R. ponticum foliage and in inoculated roots. Roots also supported P. kernoviae sporangia production. The results of this study suggest that post-clearance management of R. ponticum regrowth is necessary for long-term inoculum management in invaded woodlands.