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Diagnosis of apple replant disease (ARD): Microscopic evidence of early symptoms in fine roots of different apple rootstock genotypes

Grunewaldt-Stöcker, G., Mahnkopp, F., Popp, C., Maiss, E., Winkelmann, T.
Scientia horticulturae 2019 v.243 pp. 583-594
Malus domestica, apples, bioassays, cultivation area, decontamination, diagnostic techniques, early diagnosis, fine roots, genotype, grasses, greenhouses, growth retardation, necrosis, orchards, plant breeding, replant disease, root hairs, root systems, rootstocks, soil, soil surveys, trees
Apple replant disease (ARD) is a problem of high economic relevance in tree nurseries and apple orchards worldwide. After replanting, plants show growth reduction, reduced yield, and damaged root systems. The disease’s decade-long persistence in soil exacerbates the situation where alternative cultivation areas and ecologically safe soil decontamination measures are lacking. The etiology is still unclear and there are neither clear causal factors nor reliable parameters (except growth data from plant bioassays) for the early detection of the disease in plants or from samples from potentially affected soils. We report on greenhouse pot trials with the susceptible rootstock Malus domestica ‘M26’ grown in soils of ARD-affected as well as grass plots from three different field sites. Both gamma-irradiated ARD soils and grass soils served as control soils. The aim was to develop a diagnostic tool for the early detection of ARD. In fine roots of first to third order, we assessed the root structure, the root hair density, the cellular damages in the outer layers, and the cell vitality. After only two weeks in ARD soil, ‘M26’ reacted with cell necroses and blackening in a characteristic pattern, impaired root hair development, and low cell vitality. These symptoms were confirmed in Malus domestica ‘Bittenfelder’ and Malus-hybrid B63. Root systems grown in gamma-irradiated soils were almost symptom-free while those from grass soils showed different and only minor alterations. Thus, we suggest selected fine root symptoms to be used for an early diagnosis of ARD, e.g. in plant breeding selections and soil surveys.