The naturally occurring Verticillium nonalfalfae has been proposed as a biocontrol agent against the highly invasive Ailanthus altissima in the eastern United States. We tested 71 nontarget woody species for susceptibility to the potential biocontrol agent. In the field, only devil’s walkingstick (17% incidence) and striped maple (3%) acquired infections through natural spread from infected A. altissima (100%). Staghorn sumac (16% incidence) also exhibited wilt in close proximity to diseased Ailanthus, although V. nonalfalfae was never recovered. Stem inoculations, which are highly artificial in that they bypass root defenses and flood the xylem with millions of conidia, induced varying levels of wilt and mortality in 10 nontarget species from which V. nonalfalfae was reisolated, although recovery and crown rebuilding occurred following initial wilt in several species including sassafras and northern catalpa. Thirty-seven of the 71 inoculated species exhibited vascular discoloration, although 23 of these species exhibited no outward symptoms (wilt, dieback) for up to 6 years postinoculation. However, V. nonalfalfae was reisolated from three of the 23 species, indicating a tolerant host response. Our results suggest that V. nonalfalfae is generally host-adapted to A. altissima with 78 of 78 A. altissima seed sources from 26 states and Canada showing susceptibility, and offers support for adoption and dissemination of V. nonalfalfae to combat the highly invasive A. altissima.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Agronomy and Crop Science
- Plant Science