Phellinus noxius (brown tea root disease)
- Taxonomic Tree
- Distribution Table
- Risk of Introduction
- Hosts/Species Affected
- Host Plants and Other Plants Affected
- Growth Stages
- List of Symptoms/Signs
- Biology and Ecology
- Plant Trade
- Detection and Inspection
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Phellinus noxius (Corner) G. Cunn.
Preferred Common Name
- brown tea root disease
Other Scientific Names
- Fomes noxius Corner
International Common Names
- English: brown cocoa root rot; brown root rot; stem rot of Hevea spp.; stem rot of oil palm
Local Common Names
- Germany: Braune Wurzelfaeule
- PHELNO (Phellinus noxius)
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Fungi
- Phylum: Basidiomycota
- Subphylum: Agaricomycotina
- Class: Agaricomycetes
- Subclass: Agaricomycetidae
- Order: Hymenochaetales
- Family: Hymenochaetaceae
- Genus: Phellinus
- Species: Phellinus noxius
DescriptionTop of page Basidioma perennial, solitary or imbricate, sessile with a broad basal attachment, commonly resupinate. Pileus 5-13 x 6-25 x 2-4 cm, applanate, dimidiate or appressed-reflexed; upper surface deep reddish-brown to umbrinous, soon blackening, at first tomentose, glabrescent, sometimes with narrow concentric zonation, developing a thick crust; margin white then concolorous, obtuse. Context up to 1 cm thick, golden brown, blackening with KOH, silky-zonate fibrous, woody. Pore surface greyish-brown to umbrinous; pores irregular, polygonal, 6-8/mm, 75-175 µm diameter, dissepiments 25-100 µm thick, brittle and lacerate; tubes stratified, developing 2-5 layers, 1-4 mm to each layer, darker than context, carbonaceous. Basidiospores c. 4 x 3 µm, ovoid to broadly ellipsoid, hyaline, with a smooth, slightly thickened wall, and irrgular guttulate contents. Basidia 12-16 x 4-5 µm, short clavate, 4-spored. Setae absent. Setal hyphae present both in the context and the dissepiment trama. Context setal hyphae radially arranged, up to 600 x 4-13 µm, unbranched or rarely branching, with a thick dark chestnut brown wall and capillary lumen; apex acute to obtuse, occasionally nodulose. Tramal setal hyphae diverging to project into the tube cavity, 55-100 x 9-18 µm, with a thick dark chestnut-brown wall (2.5-7.5 µm thick) and a broad obtuse apex. Hyphal system dimitic with generative and skeletal hyphae, non-agglutinated in the context, but strongly agglutinated in the dissepiments. Generative hyphae 1-6.5 µm diameter, hyaline or brownish, wall thin to somewhat thickening, freely branching, simple septate. Skeletal hyphae 5-9 µm diameter, unbranched, of unlimited growth, with a thick reddish-brown wall (up to 2.5 µm thick) and continuous lumen, non-septate.
DistributionTop of page To date, P. noxius has been recorded only from tropical regions of the world, although it is found in Japan and Australia (NSW), but is absent from South America. Many of the host crops, such as cocoa, have been grown extensively in South American countries such as Brazil, so it is unlikely that the disease would not have been detected if present.
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|China||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|India||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|-Assam||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|-Karnataka||Present||Zhang and Chee, 1989; CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|-Kerala||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|-Tamil Nadu||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|-Tripura||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|-Uttar Pradesh||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|Indonesia||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|-Java||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|-Sumatra||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|Japan||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|-Bonin Island||Present||Sahashi et al., 2015|
|-Ryukyu Archipelago||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|Malaysia||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|-Peninsular Malaysia||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|-Sabah||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|-Sarawak||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|Myanmar||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|Pakistan||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|Philippines||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|Singapore||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997; AVA, 2001|
|Sri Lanka||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|Taiwan||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|Vietnam||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|Angola||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|Benin||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|Burkina Faso||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|Cameroon||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|Central African Republic||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|Congo Democratic Republic||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|Côte d'Ivoire||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|Gabon||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|Ghana||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|Kenya||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|Nigeria||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|Sierra Leone||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|Tanzania||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|Togo||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|Uganda||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
Central America and Caribbean
|Costa Rica||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|Cuba||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|Puerto Rico||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|Micronesia, Federated states of||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|American Samoa||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|Australia||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|-New South Wales||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|-Queensland||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|Fiji||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|Niue||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|Northern Mariana Islands||Present||Hodges and Tenorio, 1984; CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|Papua New Guinea||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|Samoa||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|Solomon Islands||Present||Liloqula and Johnson, 1987; CABI and EPPO, 1997|
|Vanuatu||Present||CABI and EPPO, 1997|
Risk of IntroductionTop of page There are only two risks to consider. Firstly, infection by spores is through freshly cut stumps. Therefore, preventing stumps being susceptible to infection by either poisoning the stump or removing it eliminates this risk. The second risk is from infected root fragments which may harbour viable fungus for up to 4 years in buried roots 3 inches in diameter. The accidental movement of such fragments in soil poses a risk of spreading the disease, and soil should not be removed from infested areas. Non-susceptible annual crops can assist in the breakdown of these fragments, and it is recommended that infested soil should not be re-planted with susceptible trees for a period of several years. This is often ignored in the redevelopment of old plantations due to economic pressures, but the earlier re-planting may be a false saving if this disease is still present, as it will destroy the new planting very quickly.
Hosts/Species AffectedTop of page The list of hosts provided concentrates on species of significant economic importance to individual countries. P. noxius appears to be non host-specific (Chang, 1995a) behaving more like an opportunistic pathogen; the only restriction being its very slow growth rate which means it is unlikely to cause problems in annual crops. As new plantation industries are established, it will not be surprising to see the host range increase. Currently, it occurs on trees belonging to over 50 tropical genera.
Host Plants and Other Plants AffectedTop of page
|Araucaria cunninghamii (colonial pine)||Araucariaceae||Main|
|Artocarpus altilis (breadfruit)||Moraceae||Main|
|Bauhinia variegata (mountain ebony)||Fabaceae||Main|
|Calophyllum inophyllum (Alexandrian laurel)||Clusiaceae||Main|
|Camellia sinensis (tea)||Theaceae||Main|
|Casuarina equisetifolia (casuarina)||Casuarinaceae||Main|
|Elaeis guineensis (African oil palm)||Arecaceae||Main|
|Ficus microcarpa (Indian laurel tree)||Moraceae||Main|
|Garcinia mangostana (mangosteen)||Clusiaceae||Main|
|Hevea brasiliensis (rubber)||Euphorbiaceae||Main|
|Koelreuteria elegans var. formosana||Sapindaceae||Main|
|Koelreuteria paniculata (golden rain tree)||Sapindaceae||Habitat/association|
|Podocarpus macrophyllus (Long-leaf podocarpus)||Podocarpaceae||Main|
|Salix babylonica (weeping willow)||Salicaceae||Main|
|Swietenia mahagoni (Cuban mahogany)||Meliaceae||Main|
|Tectona grandis (teak)||Lamiaceae||Main|
|Theobroma cacao (cocoa)||Malvaceae||Main|
Growth StagesTop of page Vegetative growing stage
SymptomsTop of page P. noxius attacks a wide range of tropical plants, although mostly trees. The leaves of an infected tree yellow and wilt and typical dieback symptoms result. Symptoms may develop slowly or the tree may wilt and become defoliated in only a few days.
The most characteristic symptom of this disease is the brown encrustation covering the surface of the diseased roots. This consists of brown mycelium in which soil and small stones are firmly embedded. The fungus moves towards the collar of the tree and occasionally the encrustation may be visible above ground level. In the diseased wood, dark lines are visible due to the presence of the fungal hyphae. In advanced stages of decay, the wood becomes light, dry and friable and honeycombed. It is one of several fungi associated with heart or butt rots of forest and timber trees (Ivory, 1996).
Sporophores are very rare, large, hard purplish-brown bracts with yellowish-white growing margins and concentric blackish zones towards the edges. They are formed above ground on the encrustation on the trunk. Unlike other similar fungi, there are no rhizomorphs. Spread is by physical contact with the root encrustations.
List of Symptoms/SignsTop of page
|Leaves / abnormal colours|
|Leaves / abnormal leaf fall|
|Leaves / wilting|
|Leaves / yellowed or dead|
|Roots / 'dirty' roots|
|Roots / soft rot of cortex|
Biology and EcologyTop of page P. noxius is spread in two main ways. The first is by windborne spores which can infect freshly cut tree stumps or fresh wounds (Sujan-Singh and Pandey, 1989). The second is by root-to-root contact (Lewis and Arentz, 1988). The leading edge of the mycelial sleeve will infect healthy roots of other trees if they touch. Infected root pieces can remain viable for many years in the soil. Differences in virulence have been detected in isolates both from the same host species and from different host species (Nandris et al., 1985, 1987b).
A study in Japan (Hattori et al., 1996) showed that clonal populations, indicative of vegetative spread, were common between adjacent trees and covered areas of 20 m² but clones varied over larger areas indicating multiple basidiospore infection. Long-term survival in soil is mainly through infected woody debris and 80-90% survival in soils of lower moisture content has been recorded (Chang, 1996).
The fungus is confined mainly to tropical areas. In Taiwan at the limit of the northern tropics it is found mostly at lower altitudes on sandier soils in the southern areas, but not in the north (Chang and Yang, 1998).
Plant TradeTop of page
|Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transport||Pest stages||Borne internally||Borne externally||Visibility of pest or symptoms|
|Bulbs/Tubers/Corms/Rhizomes||hyphae||Yes||Yes||Pest or symptoms not visible to the naked eye but usually visible under light microscope|
|Roots||hyphae||Yes||Yes||Pest or symptoms not visible to the naked eye but usually visible under light microscope|
|Stems (above ground)/Shoots/Trunks/Branches||fruiting bodies; hyphae||Yes||Yes||Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye|
|Plant parts not known to carry the pest in trade/transport|
|Fruits (inc. pods)|
|True seeds (inc. grain)|
ImpactTop of page Due to the extremely diverse host range and geographical distribution, the economic impact of P. noxius is highly variable. The impact can vary from insignificant losses to the loss of 60% of rubber trees in a plantation after 21 years (Nandris et al., 1987a). Once present in a plantation, the disease has the potential to cause tremendous devastation if allowed to proceed, due to its growth habit of spreading from root to root. It is one of several basidiomycetes causing damaging heart rots of Acacia mangium plantations in South-East Asia (See et al., 1996).
DiagnosisTop of page
Field symptoms combined with the presence of encrustation (see Detection and Inspection Methods) are the most practical diagnostic features of this disease. In culture on malt agar forms, P. noxius raised white and brown plaques, which are characteristic of the species (Nandris et al., 1987a). Recently, a selective medium has been developed consisting of 20 g/l malt-extract, 20 g/l agar, 10 mg/l benomyl, 10 mg/l dichloran, 100 mg/l ampicillin, 500 mg/l gallic acid and 1000 mg/l tergitol NP-7 (Chang, 1995b). Induction of sporulation and collection of basidiospores for the purpose of establishing single-spore colonies has been demonstrated (Bolland et al., 1984).
Tsai et al. (2007) developed specific primers which can be used in the PCR-based diagnosis of P. noxius.
Detection and InspectionTop of page Early detection of the pathogen before the typical wilt symptoms are visible is very difficult and time consuming. Methods include scraping away the soil around the collar and the main roots and looking for the distinctive mycelial sleeve, or baiting out the pathogen by placing sticks of a susceptible host in the soil and retrieving for laboratory examination after 3 weeks (Nandris et al., 1987a). The only practical method in a plantation situation is to examine the roots of dead or dying trees looking for the mycelial encrustation. Infected roots can be cleared of soil and the infection traced to roots of other trees by simply following the encrustation.
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page P. lamaensis, a closely related species with comparable geographic distribution, is readily separated from P. noxius by the presence of hymenial setae and narrow (up to 7 µm diameter only) setal hyphae of the dissepiment trama similar to those in the context.
Above-ground symptoms are similar to other root rot fungi (such as Rigidoporous lignosus of rubber) and collar rot fungi (such as Phytophthora palmivora of cocoa), and pathogen identification cannot be made on these symptoms alone. The soil-encrusted mycelium sleeve is unique to P. noxius and is used to rapidly distinguish this from other pathogens in the field.
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.Control measures depend on routine inspection and removal of diseased trees. Recommendations in the past have concentrated on digging exclusion trenches around the infected tree and digging along infected roots until the infection front is located. This, however, has proved to be of limited practical value on a large scale. Various fungicides have been found to have activity against the pathogen (Lim et al., 1990; Mappes and Hiepko, 1984), but routine field treatments with these fungicides are not economical.
The establishment of a good ground cover to hasten the decay of root fragments is recommended when clearing land. This will enhance the breakdown of any infected root fragments which otherwise would provide an inoculum source for the following crop.
Spore infection can be prevented by the chemical poisoning of stumps with compounds which are not toxic to this pathogen (Anon., 1976). Spores require a freshly cut surface, and cannot infect a dead surface.
Other chemicals which have been found to be effective eradicants are soil fumigants (Ram and Venkataram, 1975), but are not used on a plantation scale due to prohibitive cost, and potential danger to users. Volatile ammonia generated from urea is fungicidal to P. noxius in infested wood (Chang and Chang, 1999).
Biocontrol with species of Trichoderma is recognised as a method to prevent spore infection of freshly cut stumps (Anon., 1993). P. noxius is not a strong competitor and is unable to colonize a stump if another organism, such as a species of Trichoderma, is already present. But the method is technically more demanding than poisoning stumps, and is not currently widely used. The potential for biocontrol in the rhizosphere has been demonstrated, particularly with species of Trichoderma (Lim and Teh, 1990; Jacob et al., 1991; Kothandaraman et al., 1991).
ReferencesTop of page
Anon, 1976. Annual Report, 1975, Rubber Research Institute of Malaysia, 133-139.
Anon, 1993. Annual Report Rubber Research Institute of India 1991-1992, 26-33.
AVA, 2001. Diagnostic records of the Plant Health Diagnostic Services, Plant Health Centre, Agri-food & Veterinary Authority, Singapore.
Bolland L; Griffin DM; Heather WA, 1984. Induction of sporulation in basidiomes of Phellinus noxius and preparation of single spore isolates. Bulletin of the British Mycological Society, 18(2):131-133
Ivory MH, 1996. Diseases of forest trees caused by the pathogen Phellinus noxius. In: Raychaudhuri SP, ed. Forest Trees and Palms: Diseases and Control. New Delhi, India: Oxford & IBH Publishing Co, 111-133.
Kothandaraman R; Kochuthresiamma Joseph; Mathew J; Rajalakshmi VK, 1991. Actinomycete population in the rhizosphere of Hevea and its inhibitory effect on Phellinus noxius. Indian Journal of Natural Rubber Research, 4(2):150-152
Liloqula R; Johnson CM, 1987. Brown root rot of cocoa caused by Phellinus noxius. Annual Report 1985, Research Department, Agriculture Quarantine Service, Ministry of Agriculture & Lands, Solomon Islands Honiara, Solomon Islands; Dodo Creek Research Station, 38-43
Lim TK; Teh BK, 1990. Antagonism in vitro of Trichoderma species against several basidiomycetous soil-borne pathogens and Sclerotium rolfsii. Zeitschrift fur Pflanzenkrankheiten und Pflanzenschutz, 97(1):33-41
Ram CSV, 1975. Brown root disease of tea. Planters' Chronicle, 70(88):217-218.
Sahashi N; Akiba M; Ota Y; Masuya H; Hattori T; Mukai A; Shimada R; Ono T; Sato T, 2015. Brown root rot caused by Phellinus noxius in the Ogasawara (Bonin) islands, southern Japan - current status of the disease and its host plants. Australasian Plant Disease Notes, 10(1):33. http://rd.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13314-015-0183-0/fulltext.html
See LS; Zakaria Ibrahim; Hashim MohdNoor; Wan Razali Wan Mohd, 1996. Impact of heart rot in Acacia mangium Willd. plantations of Peninsular Malaysia. Impact of diseases and insect pests in tropical forests. Proceedings of the IUFRO Symposium, Peechi, India, 23-26 November 1993., 1-10; 14 ref.
Distribution MapsTop of page
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