Diversity study on Sclerotinia trifoliorum Erikks., the causal agent of clover rot in red clover crops (Trifolium pratense L.)

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Since the 16th century, red clover has been an important crop in Europe. Since the 1940s, the European areal of red clover has been severely reduced, due to the availability of chemical fertilizers and the growing interest in maize. Nowadays there is a growing interest in red clover again, although some setbacks still remain. An important setback is the low persistence of red clover crops. Clover rot, caused by the ascomycete fungus Sclerotinia trifoliorum Erikss., is a major disease in Europe and reduces the persistence of red clover crops severely. The fungus infects clover plants through ascospores in the autumn, the disease develops during the winter and early spring and can kill many plants in this period. In early spring, black sclerotia, serving as surviving bodies, are formed on infected plants. Sclerotia can survive up to 7 years in the soil (Ohberg, 2006). The development of clover rot is highly dependent on the weather conditions: a humid fall, necessary for the germination of the ascospores and an overall warm winter with short periods of frost are favourable for the disease. Cold and dry winters slow the mycelial growth down too much and prevent the disease from spreading. Clover rot is difficult to control and completely resistant red clover varieties have yet to be developed. Because of the great annual variation in disease severity, plant breeders cannot use natural infection as an effective means to screen for resistant material. Breeding for resistant cultivars is being slowed down by the lack of a bio-test usable in breeding programs. When applying artificial infections, it is necessary to have an idea of the diversity of the pathogen. A diverse population will require resistance screening with multiple isolates. The objective of this research is to investigate the genetic diversity among isolates from the pathogen S. trifoliorum from various European countries. We assessed diversity using a species identification test based on the sequence of the beta-tubulin gene, vegetative compatibility grouping and AFLP.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 62nd International Symposium on Crop Protection
EditorsPieter Spanoghe, Bjorn Vandekerkhove
Number of pages5
Publication date2010
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Event62nd International Symposium on Crop Protection (2010) - Gent, Belgium
Duration: 18-May-201018-May-2010


  • Ascomycota
  • Genetic Variation
  • Plant Diseases
  • Trifolium


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