Book Review

Phytophthora: Identifying Species by Morphology and DNA Fingerprints

By Mannon E. Gallegly and Chuanxue Hong
2008; APS Press, St. Paul, MN;
168 pages; 130 b&w images
ISBN 978-0-89054-364-1

The genus Phytophthora, “plant destroyer,” is one of the most important groups of plant pathogens in history. This genus contains the infamous potato late blight pathogen, Phytophthora infestans, responsible for the “Potato Famine” or “Murrain” in Ireland and much of Europe in the mid 1800s (the population of Ireland has never recovered in the 160 years since the catastrophe) and more recently the sudden oak death pathogen, Phytophthora ramorum, has made the headlines. And still many other species of this genus, while less well known to the general public, are familiar names to mycologists and plant pathologists around the world.

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Just published, this new identification key, Phytophthora: Identifying Species by Morphology and DNA Fingerprints, is geared to diagnosticians and researchers who need to quickly identify Phytophthora species. Pretty much ALL the important species. A tall order, considering the speed at which new species of these pathogens continue to be identified around the globe. There were only about 50 identified species when the last key was published in 1990, but now that number is approaching 100. Additionally, there have been tremendous efforts to develop DNA-based tests for rapid identification of these important pathogens, well known for amazing speed at destroying entire plantings of field crops or from spreading throughout a stand of trees. This book is especially well prepared in that it presents an updated key, integrating the classical morphological approach and a new DNA fingerprinting technique called PCR-SSCP. The dichotomous key uses minimal morphological characters, followed by pictorial illustrations. The DNA fingerprint key uses only the rDNA-ITS region amplified with a single pair of primers; a detailed step-by-step fingerprinting protocol is provided. Sixty species are described. Each species is presented in a two-page section featuring (left hand) morphological characters and DNA fingerprint and (right hand) excellent microscopic images of reproductive structures. All images (652 original photos) are in black and white but are very clear and of nice resolution. Also noteworthy are a very nice glossary and an extensive literature cited sections at the end of the text.

— Review by Britt Bunyard
— Originally published in Fungi

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