Australasian Plant Pathology

, Volume 34, Issue 4, pp 541-548

First online:

Potassium phosphonate alters the defence response of Xanthorrhoea australis following infection by Phytophthora cinnamomi

  • R. DanielAffiliated withFaculty of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, The University of Sydney Email author 
  • , B. A. WilsonAffiliated withSchool of Ecology and Environment, Deakin University
  • , D. M. CahillAffiliated withSchool of Ecology and Environment, Deakin University

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Potassium phosphonate (phosphite) is widely used in the management of Phytophthora diseases in agriculture, horticulture and natural environments. The Austral grass tree, Xanthorrhoea australis, a keystone species in the dry sclerophyll forests of southern Australia, is susceptible to Phytophthora cinnamomi, but is protected by applications of phosphite. We examined the effect of phosphite application on the infection of X. australis seedlings and cell suspension cultures by zoospores of P. cinnamomi. Phosphite induced more intense cellular responses to pathogen challenge and suppressed pathogen ingress in both seedlings and cell cultures. In untreated X. australis seedlings, hyphal growth was initially intercellular, became intracellular 24h after inoculation, and by 48h had progressed into the vascular tissue. In phosphite-treated seedlings, growth of P. cinnamomi remained intercellular and was limited to the cortex, even at 72 h after inoculation. The cell membrane retracted from the cell wall and phenolic compounds and electron dense substances were deposited around the wall of infected and neighbouring cells. Suspension cells were infected within 6 h of inoculation. Within 24 h of inoculation, untreated cells were fully colonised, had collapsed cytoplasm and died. The protoplast of phosphite-treated suspension cells collapsed within 12 h of inoculation, and phenolic material accumulated in adjacent, uninfected cells. No anatomical response to phosphite treatment was observed before infection of plant tissues, suggesting that the phosphite-associated host defence response is induced following pathogen challenge. Anatomical changes provide evidence that phosphite stimulates the host defence system to respond more effectively to pathogen invasion.

Additional keywords

dieback induced resistance phosphite