|Botrytis cinerea infection on strawberry|
Botrytis cinerea ("botrytis" from Ancient Greek botrys (βότρυς) meaning "grapes" plus the New Latin suffix -itis for disease) is a necrotrophic fungus that affects many plant species, although its most notable hosts may be wine grapes. In viticulture, it is commonly known as "botrytis bunch rot"; in horticulture, it is usually called "grey mould" or "gray mold".
The fungus gives rise to two different kinds of infections on grapes. The first, grey rot, is the result of consistently wet or humid conditions, and typically results in the loss of the affected bunches. The second, noble rot, occurs when drier conditions follow wetter, and can result in distinctive sweet dessert wines, such as Sauternes or the Aszú of Tokaji/Grasă de Cotnari. The species name Botrytis cinerea is derived from the Latin for "grapes like ashes"; although poetic, the "grapes" refers to the bunching of the fungal spores on their conidiophores, and "ashes" just refers to the greyish colour of the spores en masse. The fungus is usually referred to by its anamorph (asexual form) name, because the sexual phase is rarely observed. The teleomorph (sexual form) is an ascomycete, Botryotinia fuckeliana, also known as Botryotinia cinerea (see taxonomy box)
Hosts and symptoms
The disease, gray mold, affects more than 200 dicotyledonous plant species and a few monocotyledonous plants found in temperate and subtropical regions. Serious economic losses can be a result of this disease to both field and greenhouse grown crops. The causal agent, Botrytis cinerea can infect mature or senescent tissues, plants prior to harvest, or seedlings. There is a wide variety of hosts infected by this pathogen including protein crops, fiber crops, oil crops, and horticultural crops. Horticultural crops include vegetables (examples are chickpeas, lettuce, broccoli, and beans) and small fruit crops (examples are grape, strawberry, and raspberry), these are most severely affected and devastated by gray mold. Plant organs affected include fruits, flowers, leaves, storage organs, and shoots.
Symptoms and signs
Symptoms vary across plant organs and tissues. B. cinerea is a soft rot that will have a collapsed and water soaked appearance on soft fruit and leaves. Brown lesions may develop slowly on undeveloped fruit. Twigs infected with gray mold will die back. Blossoms will cause fruit drop and injury, such as ridging on developing and mature fruit. Symptoms are visible at wound sites where the fungus begins to rot the plant. Gray masses with a velvety appearance are conidia on the plant tissues are a sign of plant pathogen. These conidia are asexual spores that will continue to infect the plant and surrounding hosts throughout the growing season making this a polycyclic disease.
Plants have evolved to produce localized lesions when a pathogen attacks. An oxidative burst causes hypersensitive cell death called a hypersensitive response (HR). This soft rot can trigger HR to assist in colonization. Botrytis cinerea, as a necrotrophic pathogen, exploits the dead tissue for its pathogenicity or its ability to cause disease. Susceptible plants cannot use the HR to protect against Botrytis cinerea.
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Botrytis cinerea is characterized by abundant hyaline conida (asexual spores) borne on grey, branching tree-like conidiophores. The fungus also produces highly resistant sclerotia as survival structures in older cultures. It overwinters as sclerotia or intact mycelia, both of which germinate in spring to produce conidiophores. The conidia, dispersed by wind and by rain-water, cause new infections.
Gray mold favors moist, humid, and warm environmental conditions between 18.3-23-9℃ (65-75℉). Temperature, relative humidity, and wetness duration produce a conducive environment that is favorable for inoculation of mycelium or conidia. Controlled environments, such as crop production greenhouses, provide the moisture and high temperatures that favor the spreading and development of the pathogen Botrytis cinerea.
Standing water on plant leaf surfaces provides a place for spores to germinate. Humid conditions can result from improper irrigation practice, plants placed too close together, or the structure of the greenhouse not allowing for efficient ventilation and air flow. Ventilation at night significantly reduces the incidence of gray mold.
A low pH is preferred by the gray mold to perform well. Botrytis cinerea can acidify its environment by secreting organic acids, like oxalic acid. By acidifying its surroundings, cell wall degrading enzymes (CWDEs) are enhanced, plant-protection enzymes are inhibited, stomatal closure is deregulated, and pH signaling is mediated to facilitate its pathogenesis.
In the Botrytis infection known as "noble rot" (pourriture noble in French, or Edelfäule in German), the fungus removes water from the grapes, leaving behind a higher percent of solids, such as sugars, fruit acids and minerals. This results in a more intense, concentrated final product. The wine is often said to have an aroma of honeysuckle and a bitter finish on the palate.
A distinct fermentation process initially caused by nature, the combination of geology, climate and specific weather led to the particular balance of beneficial fungus while leaving enough of the grape intact for harvesting. The Chateau d'Yquem is the only Premier Cru Supérieur, largely due to the vineyard's susceptibility to noble rot.
Botrytis complicates winemaking by making fermentation more complex. Botrytis produces an anti-fungal that kills yeast and often results in fermentation stopping before the wine has accumulated sufficient levels of alcohol. Makers of fine German dessert wines have been known to take fermenting tubs of wine into their homes to nurture the yeast through the night to assure that the alcohol level reaches legal minimums for the product to be called wine.
Botrytis bunch rot is another condition of grapes caused by Botrytis cinerea that causes great losses for the wine industry. It is always present on the fruitset, however, it requires a wound to start a bunch rot infection. Wounds can come from insects, wind, accidental damage, etc. To control botrytis bunch rot there are a number of fungicides available on the market. Generally, these should be applied at bloom, bunch closure and veraison (the most important being the bloom application). Some winemakers are known to use the German method of fermentation and prefer having a 5% bunch rot rate in their grapes and will usually hold the grapes on the vine a week longer than normal.
Botrytis cinerea affects many other plants. It is economically important on soft fruits such as strawberries and bulb crops. Unlike wine grapes, the affected strawberries are not edible and are discarded. To minimize infection in strawberry fields, good ventilation around the berries is important to prevent moisture being trapped among leaves and berries. A number of bacteria have been proven to act as natural antagonists to B. cinerea in controlled studies.
In greenhouse horticulture, Botrytis cinerea is well known as a cause of considerable damage in tomatoes.
The infection also affects rhubarb, snowdrops, white meadowfoam, western hemlock, Douglas-fir  and cannabis. Potassium bicarbonate-based fungicide has been proven to cure and prevent powdery mildew, blackspot, downy mildew, blights, molds and other plant diseases, such as Botrytis cinerea.
Botrytis cinerea mold on grapes may cause "winegrower's lung", a rare form of hypersensitivity pneumonitis (a respiratory allergic reaction in predisposed individuals).
Mycoviruses of Botrytis cinerea
Botrytis cinerea not only infects plants, it also hosts several mycoviruses itself (see Table).
A range of phenotypic alterations due to the mycoviral infection have been observed from symptomless to mild impact, or more severe phenotypic changes including reduction in pathogenicity, growth/suppression of mycelia, sporulation and sclerotia production, formation of abnormal colony sectors (Wu et al., 2010) and virulence.
Botrytis cinerea can be managed through cultural, chemical, and biological practices.
There are no resistant species to the gray mold rot. Gray mold can be culturally controlled by monitoring the amount and timing of fertilizer applications to reduce the amount of fruit rot. Excessive application of nitrogen will increase the incidence of disease while not improving yields.
Planting cultivars that don’t have an upright or dense growth habit can reduce disease as these limit airflow and are favorable for the pathogen. Spacing of plants so they are not touching will increase airflow allowing the area to dry out and reduce the spread of disease. Pruning or purposeful removal of diseased, dead, or overgrown limbs on a regular schedule can also help to improve air movement.
Sanitation by removing dead or dying plant tissue in the fall will decrease inoculum levels as there is no debris for the sclerotium or mycelia to overwinter. Removing debris in the spring will remove inoculum from the site. Disposal of berries during harvest that have signs and symptoms of gray mold will reduce inoculum for the following year.
Gray mold can be chemically controlled with well-timed fungicide applications starting during the first bloom. Timing can reduce the chance of resistance and will save on costs.
Biological controls or microbial antagonists used for disease suppression, have been successfully used in Europe and Brazil in the form of fungi-like Trichoderma harzianium Rifai and Gliocladium roseum Bainier. Trichoderma species especially, have been shown to control gray mold.
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- Genome information for Botrytis cinerea
- Genome analysis of Botrytis cinerea
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