Root and crown rot is the major soil-borne fungal disease in sugar beet. In Europe, the disease is mainly caused by the anastomosis group (AG) 2-2IIIB of the basidiomycete Rhizoctonia solani (Ku¨ hn). No chemical fungicide to control the disease has been registered in Europe. Therefore, agronomic measures must be optimized to keep the disease severity below an economic damage threshold and to minimize white sugar yield losses. R. solani AG 2-2IIIB infects many other crops besides sugar beet, including maize, where it causes root rot. Sugar beet and maize are frequently grown in the same crop rotation. The proportion of cultivated maize in several European sugar beet growing areas is expected to rise due to a projected increase in demand for renewable resources over the next few years. Although the susceptibility to and tolerance of the disease varies among cultivars in both crops, little is known about the effects of cultivar susceptibility in the pre-crop on a subsequent susceptible crop. The cultivation of R. solani-resistant maize genotypes in rotation with resistant sugar beet might therefore be a useful tool in an integrated control strategy against R. solani, eliminating the need to restrict the desired crop rotation for phytosanitary reasons. A crop rotation experiment with artificially inoculated R. solani was conducted in the field to investigate the pre-crop effects of maize cultivars which differed in their susceptibility to R. solani on a susceptible sugar beet cultivar.We hypothesized that the maize genotype would influence the inoculum potential and performance of a susceptible sugar beet genotype grown after a maize pre-crop, and that this would correlate with the susceptibility of the maize genotype. The results demonstrate that the susceptibility of maize genotypes is consistent over a period of years and that cultivated maize genotypes influenced the inoculum potential measured as disease severity in sugar beet. However, disease severity in sugar beet did not correlate with the disease susceptibility of the genotype of the maize pre-crop. Possible reasons for this missing relationship might be differences in the quality of maize residues for the saprophytic survival of the pathogen or a genotype-specific alteration of the antagonistic microbial community. However, our findings showed that in the presence of maize- and sugar beetpathogenic R. solani, the most favourable maize cultivar for a crop rotation cannot be determined solely on the basis of its resistance level against Rhizoctonia root rot.
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