Analysis of Volatile Profiles for Tracking Asymptomatic Infections of Phytophthora ramorum and Other Pathogens in Rhododendron

Cai H. Thompson, Mitchell M. McCartney, Tatiana V. Roubtsova, Takao Kasuga, Susan E. Ebeler, Cristina E. Davis, Richard M. Bostock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Phytophthora ramorum is an invasive, broad host range pathogen that causes ramorum blight and sudden oak death in forest landscapes of western North America. In commercial nurseries, asymptomatic infections of nursery stock by P. ramorum and other Phytophthora species create unacceptable risk and complicate inspection and certification programs designed to prevent introduction and spread of these pathogens. In this study, we continue development of a volatile organic compound (VOC)-based test for detecting asymptomatic infections of P. ramorum in Rhododendron sp. We confirmed detection of P. ramorum from volatiles collected from asymptomatic root-inoculated Rhododendron plants in a nursery setting, finding that the VOC profile of infected plants is detectably different from that of healthy plants, when measured from both ambient VOC emissions and VOCs extracted from leaf material. Predicting infection status was successful from ambient volatiles, which had a mean area under the curve (AUC) value of 0.71 ± 0.17, derived from corresponding receiver operating characteristic curves from an extreme gradient boosting discriminant analysis. This finding compares with that of extracted leaf volatiles, which resulted in a lower AUC value of 0.51 ± 0.21. In a growth chamber, we contrasted volatile profiles of asymptomatic Rhododendron plants having roots infected with one of three pathogens: P. ramorum, P. cactorum, and Rhizoctonia solani. Each pathogen induced unique and measurable changes, but generally the infections reduced volatile emissions until 17 weeks after inoculation, when emissions trended upward relative to those of mockinoculated controls. Forty-five compounds had significant differences compared with mock-inoculated controls in at least one host-pathogen combination.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1818-1827
Number of pages10
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Mass spectrometry
  • Metabolomics
  • Nursery detection
  • Oomycetes
  • Pathogen detection
  • Ramorum blight
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Plant Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Analysis of Volatile Profiles for Tracking Asymptomatic Infections of Phytophthora ramorum and Other Pathogens in Rhododendron'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this