Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Agriculture - Crop Science


Horticulture and Crop Science


Kelly Ivors


The production of strawberries can be severely limited by soilborne plant pathogens, insects and weeds. Macrophomina phaseolina is a problematic soilborne fungal pathogen in California strawberry production inciting the disease Macrophomina crown rot. When established, the pathogen can cause extensive plant decline and mortality. Host resistance will be a critical tool for managing this disease and guiding breeding programs in the post methyl bromide era. Evaluation of host resistance in strawberry germplasm to M. phaseolina was evaluated through phenotypic assessments of disease incidence. A total of 90 strawberry cultivars and elite selections were included in a replicated field trial conducted in artificially inoculated soils to assess host resistance. Significant differences in levels of resistance and susceptibility were observed among genotypes tested in this trial. The five most resistant strawberry genotypes from highest to lowest in percent plant mortality were: UC-R, UC-G, UC-V, Manresa, and Osceola. The five most susceptible strawberry genotypes with the highest percent mortality in ranking order from highest to lowest were: UC-J, Ruby June, Festival, UC-Y, and UC-A. Of the genotypes tested in this trial UC-V, Manresa and Osceola could be characterized as highly resistant, but no complete resistance was observed.

An additional study was conducted to correlate host symptom expression with the extent of pathogen colonization in different strawberry tissues, and to determine if resistant germplasm can contribute to secondary inoculum production in the field. An established qPCR method was utilized to quantify M. phaseolina colonization of strawberry tissues. There were significant effects for cultivar (P < 0.0001) as well as a significant two-way interaction of cultivar x sample time (P= 0.0083) on the concentration of M. phaseolina DNA detected in strawberry tissues. Expression of the resistant phenotype in strawberry cultivars was associated with limited plant colonization by M. phaseolina. The extent of colonization of a specific cultivar by M. phaseolina was dependent on the sample time after inoculation with the pathogen. In addition, the roots and crowns of a specific strawberry cultivar were equally colonized on a per plant tissue weight basis, but this provides only speculation into the mechanisms conferring host resistance.

A third study was conducted to integrate host resistance of strawberry genotypes with the use of organic amendments in effort to mutually enhance the efficacy of each factor for the control of Macrophomina crown rot. Artificially inoculated potting substrate was amended with Brassica juncea mustard seed meal at a rate of 4.94 tons ha-1(MSM), and anaerobic soil disinfestation utilizing rice bran at a rate of 22.24 tons ha-1 (ASD) were compared to a non-amended (UTC) and steam controls. The soil assay indicated that the ASD and steam treatments were able to reduce the CFU g-1 potting substrate of M. phaseolina by 99.7-100%. In addition, there were significant effects of soil treatment on the fresh biomass of weed seedlings recovered from the potting substrate. However, disease severity and host colonization of multiple strawberry cultivars by M. phaseolina was not reduced when grown in the treated potting substrate. The effect of strawberry cultivar on the extent of pathogen colonization was highly significant (P < 0.0001), in which cultivars characterized as resistant from phenotypic screenings possessed lower concentrations of M. phaseolina DNA. The suppression of M. phaseolina in response to organic amendments was limited but this study supports findings from previous experiments that genotype specific host resistance minimizes host colonization and reduces the production of secondary inoculum.