Researchers Have Pinpointed an Elusive Pathogen in Mexico

Plants afflicted with clubroot disease are stunted, wilt readily, and may have yellowing leaves.

Can clubroot disease be found in Mexico?

For many years, researchers and online databases have assumed that Mexico is home to clubroot, one of the main diseases that affect cruciferous plants (such as broccoli, cabbage, and kale). However, until a team of scientists headed by Mauricio Luna and Legnara Padrón-Rodrguez of the University of Veracruz put on their detective hats to pinpoint the clubroot pathogen, there was no data to back up this assumption.

Determining the existence of the disease is crucial to planning for any outbreaks since Mexico is the fifth-largest producer of broccoli in the world and the primary supplier to the eastern United States and Canada. The detection method was developed by Legnara Padrón during Covid-19, which made the authors wonder what may transpire if plants were to get infected by a pandemic in the future.

Working with cruciferous crop growers in Mexico, the approach comprised taking soil samples from three different types of fields: those that were actively producing cruciferous crops, those that had ceased producing cruciferous crops for up to a year, and those that had stopped.

After cultivating a variety of cruciferous crop plants in the soil gathered, they were successful in extracting the clubroot pathogen. The roots of infected plants exhibited typical clubroot symptoms, and molecular methods confirmed the findings.

Now researchers can investigate if, as suspected, the clubroot pathogen has hindered the growth of cruciferous crops in certain Mexican fields. New fields affected by the disease have been added to the ClubrootTracker, an online tool developed by Dr. Pérez-López’s group to trace the clubroot pathogen. Additionally, their results will significantly improve the future management of clubroot, safeguarding the cruciferous crops economy in Mexico and the worldwide supply of these important vegetables.

Corresponding author Edel Pérez-López comments, “Our results open the door to more exciting research, like studying the genome of P. brassicae Mexican isolates, geographic distribution, and its evolution compared to other North American isolates. The strategy we followed could help detect the clubroot pathogen in other geographic areas, or potentially, other soil-borne pathogens.”

This study embodies the importance of listening to growers. Their knowledge, combined with science, can reveal answers that improve plant disease management and increase agricultural revenue.

Reference: “Plasmodiophora brassicae in Mexico: From Anecdote to Fact” by Legnara Padrón-Rodríguez, Carlos Roberto Cerdán Cabrera, Nadia Guadalupe Sánchez Coello, Mauricio Luna-Rodríguez and Edel Pérez-López, 13 June 2022, Plant Disease.
DOI: 10.1094/PDIS-11-21-2607-RE

The study was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. 

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