Identification of the causal agent of “pata seca” in pepper crop production areas of Ecuador

ABSTRACT Cultivation of pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) has high economic relevance in Ecuador. Although the planted area is approximately 5704 ha, its productivity is low (3.17 t ha-1) relative to other countries in the region. In recent years, the spread and the development of a disease that leads the plant to death, known by farmers as “pata seca” and occurring in production zones located in Guayas and Santa Elena Provinces, have caused great economic losses. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of “pata seca” on commercial pepper crops during 2013 and 2014 and to identify the causal agent of such disease. Twenty-three farms were visited, where samples and data were collected. “Pata seca” was detected in 79.2% samples, and 53.6% plants had symptoms of this disease. Analysis of the samples collected in 2013 and 2014 indicated that the predominant fungi were Sclerotium rolfsii (31.17%, 49.64%) and Fusarium spp. (29.29%, 32.37%), respectively. Pathogenicity tests confirmed that S. rofsii is the major causal agent.