Zymoseptoria tritici, a globally distributed pathogen, is responsible of Septoria tritici blotch (STB), one of the most damaging wheat diseases. In Italy the incidence of STB has increased during the past few years. The presence of Z. tritici on flag leaves of susceptible durum wheat plants, cultivar San Carlo, after a single artificial inoculation with two inoculum concentrations at different vegetative stages has been evaluated in the plain of Bologna (North of Italy), in a two year field study (2012–2013). The pathogen presence was also assessed in natural infection conditions after a fungicide application in the second year (2013). The results obtained, by visual examination (Incidence, Disease Severity) and DNA quantification by Real time PCR, demonstrated that BBCH 39 (flag leaf stage) is the most susceptible vegetative stage, independently of inoculum concentration and climatic conditions. A good correlation between Disease Severity and DNA quantity was observed in either sampling methods, entire flag leaves and flag leaf discs. Thereafter the most suitable period to obtain the best crop protection with only one fungicide treatment is the flag leaf stage.
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