The mini-horhizotron as a tool for assessing disease severity in container grown annuals

L.E. Kaderabek, B.E. Jackson, W.C. Fonteno
Two experiments were conducted to assess the use of the mini-horhizotron in measuring disease severity of Pythium aphanidermatum on the roots of bedding snapdragons and poinsettias grown in three different horticultural substrates. Plugs of Antirrhinum majus ‘Snapshot Red’ and Euphorbia pulcherrima ‘Angelica White’ were planted in mini-horhizotrons containing either a commercial potting mix or two substrates containing pine wood chips (PWC): 80% peat moss and 20% pine wood chips (80:20 PWC), or 70% peat moss and 30% PWC (70:30 PWC). Tracings of the root system were taken using clear transparencies at the time of inoculation with Pythium aphanidermatum, and one month later at the termination of the experiments. The tracings were uploaded into Cornell University’s RootReader2D software and measured for total root length. Results showed that snapdragons grown in the 80:20 PWC substrate had a total root loss of 6%, as compared to 48% for the 70:30 PWC substrate and 81% for the commercial mix. Pythium infection was more severe for poinsettias, with total root losses of 71, 87 and 91% in the commercial, 80:20 PWC, and 70:30 PWC substrates, respectively. Visual observations that were noted weekly during the experiment for both snapdragon and poinsettia provided evidence of the timing and severity of root disease symptoms. Other observations included fungus gnat (Bradysia spp.) larva, water-soaked and necrotic roots, and loss of root hairs. The results of this study illustrate how the mini-horhizotron, when used in addition to other disease assessment techniques, can help provide a non-destructive assessment of root disease severity over time. The ability to view the rhizosphere and the accuracy with which root length can be measured suggests that the mini-horhizotron could have broad applications in plant pathology research.
Kaderabek, L.E., Jackson, B.E. and Fonteno, W.C. (2019). The mini-horhizotron as a tool for assessing disease severity in container grown annuals. Acta Hortic. 1266, 381-388
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2019.1266.53
Pythium, pine wood chips, mini-horhizotron, rhizosphere

Acta Horticulturae