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Agronomy Journal Abstract -

Field Response of Alfalfa to Harvest Frequency, Cultivar, Crown Pathogens, and Soil Fertility: II. Crown Rot


This article in AJ

  1. Vol. 86 No. 1, p. 88-93
    Received: May 21, 1992

    * Corresponding author(s):
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  1. B. D. Gossen 
  1. Agriculture Canada Res. Stn., 107 Science Place, Saskatoon, SK S7N 0X2



Decline in stand density and productivity of alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) over time in Canada and the USA has been attributed, in part, to crown and root diseases. In 1985, an experiment was initiated at three locations in Saskatchewan to examine the interaction of (i) harvest frequency, (ii) alfalfa cultivar, (iii) inoculation with fungal crown rot pathogens (Coprinus psychromorbidus, Phoma sclerotioides, or Fusarium spp.), and (iv) K nutrition on the etiology, lesion initiation, incidence, and severity of crown rot of alfalfa. Plant samples were collected from the plots in early spring and late fall each year, starting 1 yr after seeding. The pattern of symptom initiation and lesion expansion were similar at all sites. Lesions were observed initially at the base of senescing stems, and spread laterally into the crown and vertically into the tap root. Lesions were observed on plants at all sites on the first sampling date (> 70% of plants affected at Loon Lake and Saskatoon and 32% at Melfort), but severity was low. By the fall of the following year (1987), incidence was near 100% at all sites, and severity had increased markedly. Harvest frequency and K fertility did not affect crown rot at any location. Inoculation with C. psychromorbidus resulted in small increases in crown rot severity at two sites, but inoculation with the other pathogens had no effect. ‘Nordica’ alfalfa was more resistant to crown rot than ‘Beaver’. These results indicate that resistance to crown rot may be advantageous if long-term persistence is required, but resistance is not required in short-term rotations. Also, crown rot and crown bud rot, two alfalfa diseases that have previously been described as distinct entities, appear to be a single disease complex, based on similarities in symptom development and the organisms associated with affected plants.

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