Friday, September 7, 2012

Sample of the Week: Poinsettia scab

Rapid elongation of poinsettia stem infected
with Sphaceloma poinsettiae
Poinsettia scab, caused by the fungus Sphaceloma poinsettiae, was found on a sample from a commercial greenhouse this week.  It has been six years since the PDIC last diagnosed this disease in a North Carolina poinsettia crop. As the name implies, this fungus causes leaf spots and stem lesions, but the most noticeable effect is an abnormal elongation of the poinsettia stem. The purple leaf spots may develop a light tan center, and they sometimes have a yellow halo. The surface of the spot is characteristically puckered, which is best seen under magnification. An olive-colored, velvety layer of spores may be present on the spots and stem lesions. These spores are spread to other plants via water splash. Long-distance transport occurs on infected planting material. This disease cannot survive between seasons in North Carolina in the absence of a poinsettia crop. For a good summary of the disease, see the 2001 APSnet publication by Mike Benson et al. Growers should be sure they get clean stock and should scout points for leaf and stem symptoms. Keeping leaf wetness to a minimum will help reduce the advance of the disease. Apply azoxystrobin (Heritage), trifloxistrobin (Compass O), triflumizole (Terraguard), or triadimefon (Strike) to protect plants. An interesting side note is that while this fungus is a problem for poinsettia producers, it has been studied as a possible biocontrol agent for wild, weedy poinsettia relatives in the tropics. 

Special thanks to Dr. Kelly Ivors for contributing to this post.
Close-up of poinsettia stem showing scab lesions
Scab lesions on poinsettia leaf, caused by Sphaceloma poinsettiae