Gnomoniopsis castanea is the main agent of chestnut nut rot in Switzerland
Nuts of sweet chestnut have been an important food source for the alpine population in Switzerland since the Middle Ages and are still valued today for the preparation of traditional food commodities. Nut quality is reduced by insect damage and by various pathogenic fungi. In the last few years, producers and consumers perceived an increase of brown nut rot; while the nut rot agent Gnomoniopsis castanea was reported locally in southern Switzerland, its presence has not been investigated over large areas until now. This study assessed the incidence of brown nut rot and identified the causal agent present in Switzerland. Fully ripened nuts were collected from the main sweet chestnut growing areas of Switzerland. A filamentous fungus morphologically identified as G. castanea was isolated from 10 to 91% of the sampled nuts, despite only 3 to 21% of the sampled nuts showing brown rot symptoms. This fungus was isolated from symptomatic chestnuts as well as from apparently healthy chestnuts. Our results suggest a possible endophytic lifestyle in ripened nuts as well as in branches, leaves and unripe nuts as previously found. Species identity of 45 isolates was confirmed by EF-1alpha, beta-tubulin and ITS sequencing. Concatenation of β-tubulin and calmodulin sequences showed that several haplotypes were present at each sampling locality. No other nut rot pathogens could be isolated in this study, suggesting that G. castanea is the main causal agent of nut rot in Switzerland. The presence of this species is reported for the first time in a site in northern Switzerland. Further studies are needed to assess the influence of meteorological conditions and chestnut varieties on the incidence of G. castanea in order to provide prevention strategies for chestnut growers.
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