Changes in Cryphonectria parasitica populations affect natural biological control of chestnut blight.
Invasive species, especially plant pathogens, have a potential to completely eradicate native plant species and remodel landscapes. Tripartite interactions among sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa), chestnut blight-causing invasive fungus Cryphonectria parasitica, and hyperparasitic virus Cryphonectria hypovirus 1 (CHV1) were studied in two populations. The number of different vegetative compatibility (vc) types of C. parasitica more than doubled over the 10 years, while the hypovirulence incidence dropped in one population and slightly increased in the other one. Over the course of our 3-year monitoring experiment, the prevalence of hypovirulent isolates obtained from monitored cankers increased slowly (i.e., more hypovirulent isolates were being obtained from the same cankers over time). Within studied cankers, considerable changes in vc type and CHV1 presence were observed, indicating a highly dynamic system in which virulent and hypovirulent mycelia, sometimes of discordant vc types, often appeared together. The increase in hypovirulence prevalence did not have any observable curative effect on the cankers and, occasionally, reactivation of healed cankers by new, virulent C. parasitica isolates was observed. Both short- and long-term observations and revalidation of the infected plant populations are necessary to accurately estimate disease progress and formulate an adequate disease management strategy.