Skip to main content

Alternative hosts of Spongospora subterranea f. sp. subterranea in southern Africa


Spongospora subterranea f. sp. subterranea (Sss) is an obligate parasite that can only multiply within the living tissues of a host plant. Greenhouse experiments were carried out to determine the host status of Sss in some crops and weeds commonly found in southern African fields. These experiments used both qPCR and light microscope examination to study the development of Sss in the roots of weeds and crops grown in inoculated Merz solution. Zoosporangia and sporosori were observed microscopically in weed species Acanthospermum hispidum, Ageratum conyzoides, Bidens pilosa, Cleome monophylla, Datura stramonium, Euphorbia heterophylla, Oxalis latifolia, Physalis angulata, Setaria pumila and Tagetes minuta, whilst Ipomea plebia, Setaria verticillata and Galinsoga parviflora were non-hosts of Sss. Root galls were only observed on D. stramonium roots. The crops Allium cepa, Solanum lycopersicum, Zea mays, Avena sativa and Triticum aestivum were both zoosporangial and sporosorial hosts, whilst Phaseolus vulgaris and Brassica juncea were sporosorial hosts only. This study has added three new families to the hosts of Sss, namely Oxalidaceae, Euphorbiaceae and Cappardaceae. Two zoosporangial hosts were identified, namely Avena strigosa and Glycine max. These crops would be ideal to be included as trap crops in rotations with potatoes. The highest quantity of Sss DNA in weed species was recorded in the roots of P. angulata, N. physalodes and A. conyzoides, whilst in cultivated crops the highest quantity of Sss DNA was recorded in Brassica juncea followed by Avena strigosa. The study has shown the importance of weeds and some crops used in rotation with potatoes as alternative hosts of Sss and their potential to increase Sss inoculum level in the soil.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  • Andersen, B. A. B., Nicolaisen, M., & Nielsen, S. L. (2002). Alternative hosts for potato mop-top virus, genus Pomovirus and its vector Spongospora subterranea f. sp. subterranea. Potato Research, 45, 37–43.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Arcila, A. I. M., González Jaimes, E. P., Amaya, Z., María, C., & Cotes Torres, J. M. (2013). Alternate hosts of Spongospora subterranea f. sp. subterranea identification in Colombia by bioassay. Revista Faculty Nacional de Agronomía, Medellín, 66(2), 6987–6998.

    Google Scholar 

  • Braselton, J. P. (1995). Current status of the Plasmodiophorids. Critical Reviews in Microbiology, 21, 263–275.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Falloon, R. E. (2008). Control of powdery scab of potato: Towards an integrated disease management. American Journal of Potato Research, 85, 253–260.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Falloon, R. E., Merz, U., Butler, R. C., Curtin, D., Lister, R. A., & Thomas, S. M. (2016). Root infection of potato by Spongospora subterranea: Knowledge review and evidence for decreased plant productivity. Plant Pathology, 65(3), 422–434.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Harrison, J. G., Searle, R. J., & Williams, N. A. (1997). Powdery scab of potato – A review. Plant Pathology, 46, 1–25.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jones, R. A. C., & Harrison, B. D. (1972). Ecological studies on potato mop-top virus in soil in Scotland. Annals of Applied Biology, 71, 47–57.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kageyama, K., & Asano, T. (2009). Life cycle of Plasmodiophora brassicae. Journal of Plant Growth Regulation, 28, 203–211.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Karling, J. S. (1968). The Plasmodiophorales. The Plasmodiophorales. (2nd edition).

  • Merz, U. (1989). Infectivity, inoculum density and germination of Spongospora subterranea resting spores: A solution-culture test system. European Plant Protection Organization Bulletin, 19, 585–592.

    Google Scholar 

  • Merz, U. (2008). Powdery scab of potato - occurrence, life cycle and epidemiology. American Journal of Potato Research, 85, 241–246.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Merz, U., Walsh, J. A., Bouchek-Mechiche, K., Oberhansli, T. H., & Bitterlin, W. (2005). Improved immunological detection of Spongospora subterranea. European Journal of Plant Pathology, 110, 71–77.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nitzan, N., Boydston, R., Batchelor, D., Cosslin, J., Hamlin, L., & Brown, C. (2009). Hairy nightshade is an alternative host of Spongospora subterranea, the potato powdery scab pathogen. American Journal of Potato Research, 86, 297–303.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Qu, X., & Christ, B. (2006). The host range of Spongospora subterranea f. sp. subterranea in the United States. American Journal of Potato Research, 83, 343–347.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schwelm, A., Fogelqvist, J., Knaust, A., Jülke, S., Lilja, T., Bonilla-Rosso, G., Karlsson, M., Shevchenko, A., Dhandapani, V., Choi, S. R., Kim, H. G., Park, J. Y., Lim, Y. P., Müller, J. L., & Dixelius, C. (2015). The Plasmodiophora brassicae genome reveals insights in its life cycle and ancestry of chitin synthesis. Scientific Reports, 5, 1–14.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Shah, F. A., Falloon, R. E., & Bulman, S. R. (2010). Nightshade weeds (Solanum spp.) confirmed as hosts of the potato pathogens Melodogyne fallax and Spongospora subterranea f. sp. subterranea. Australasian Plant Pathology, 39, 492–498.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tsror, L., Shapira, R., Erlich, O., Hazanovsky, M., & Lebiush, S. (2019). Characterization of weeds and rotational crops as alternative hosts of Spongospora subterranea, the causal agent of powdery scab in Israel. Plant Pathology, 69(2), 294–301.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • van de Graaf, P., Lees, A. K., Cullen, D. W., & Duncan, J. M. (2003). Detection and quantification of Spongospora subterranea in soil, water and plant tissue samples using real time PCR. European Journal of Plant Pathology, 109, 589–597.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • van de Graaf, P., Wale, S. J., & Lees, A. K. (2007). Factors affecting the incidence and severity of Spongospora subterranea infection and galling in potato roots. Plant Pathology, 56, 1005–1013.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Walsh, J. A., Merz, U., & Harrison, J. G. (1996). Serological detection of sporosori of Spongospora subterranea and quantification in soil. Plant Pathology, 45, 884–895.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


The authors would like to acknowledge Potatoes South Africa for funding this work.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jacquie E. van der Waals.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

All authors declare no conflict of interest.

Human and animal rights

No human and/or animal participants were involved in this research.

Informed consent

All authors consent to this submission.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Simango, K., Slabbert, C.P. & van der Waals, J.E. Alternative hosts of Spongospora subterranea f. sp. subterranea in southern Africa. Eur J Plant Pathol 157, 421–424 (2020).

Download citation

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Alternative hosts
  • Powdery scab
  • Sporosori
  • Zoosporangia