Diaporthe helianthi is the causal agent of a severe sunflower disease but, in Italy, disease outbreaks are sporadic with no significant losses. The present work investigates the role of meteorological conditions on the potential development of D. helianthi epidemics in Italy, using the French model Asphodel, which simulates the effect of air temperature, relative humidity and rainfall on ascospore maturation and dispersal, infection establishment, disease onset and severity during the period of host susceptibility. Meteorological data measured in eight stations distributed from north to south Italy, over a 5-year period (1995-99), was used as model input. Results showed that meteorological conditions in Italy are frequently favourable for D. helianthi infections on sunflower, and severe epidemics are possible. Therefore, climatic conditions are not a limiting factor for disease development in the Italian sunflower-growing areas. The lack of disease epidemics in Italy may be related to differences in the pathogen populations compared with the French ones.
- Diaporthe helianthi