Meloidogyne incognita intensifies the severity of Fusarium wilt on watermelon caused by Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. niveum.
Fusarium wilt of watermelon, caused by Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. niveum (FON), is a devastating soil-borne disease in watermelon production. Race 1 and race 2 of the pathogen are widely distributed in different watermelon producing regions. To investigate whether the root-knot nematodes break resistance of watermelon genotypes with resistance to FON race 1 and race 2, four greenhouse experiments were conducted on two watermelon cultivars 'Calhoun Gray' and 'Fascination' that are resistant to race 1, and an accession PI 296 341-FR that is resistant to race 2. The treatments included seedlings of 'Calhoun Gray' and 'Fascination' inoculated with Meloidogyne incognita (1000 J2/plant) or FON race 1 alone, nematodes 5 days before FON, FON 5 days before nematodes, nematodes and FON simultaneously, and non-inoculated control. PI 296 341-FR was inoculated with FON race 2, with or without M. incognita inoculation. The presence of M. incognita enhanced the susceptibility of all watermelon genotypes to Fusarium wilt. Co-inoculation with M. incognita led to an early development of wilt symptoms and increased disease severity. Galls were observed on roots of all nematode-inoculated plants, and sequential inoculation of FON followed by nematodes resulted in numerically lower galling indices compared with other inoculation methods. Whereas inoculation of the nematodes alone did not reduce plant growth, growth suppression was evident when seedlings were inoculated with both pathogens. The results indicated that M. incognita could enhance susceptibility of resistant watermelon genotypes to respective FON races, and host resistance alone is not sufficient for managing Fusarium wilt on watermelon in soils infested with root-knot nematodes.