Armillaria root rot threatens Cameroon’s Penja pepper (Piper nigrum L.)
Penja pepper (Piper nigrum) produced in Cameroon has long been recognized for its exceptional organoleptic quality. The pepper vine is grown using a support tree (Spondias mombin) in Cameroon. A root disease is associated with plant deaths in both plants. The disease symptoms are characterized by collar cracking and gummosis and the disease was tentatively identified as Armillaria root rot. In this work the extent of the problem was characterized by surveying 35 farms in Cameroon. Samples were taken from diseased support trees and pepper vines. Support trees exhibiting typical symptoms were found in approximately one third of the surveyed farms. In these farms, disease incidence and Pepper vine mortality ranged from 1.3 to 50% and 1.2 to 87.7%, respectively. Analysis of the ribosomal internal transcribed spacer region (ITS) locus suggested that the isolates collected from S. mombin and P. nigrum are most likely, which is a first for both hosts, represented by Armillaria camerunensis (Henn.) Volk & Burdsall, a fungus previously associated with declining cacao trees in Cameroon. Given the increasing demand for Penja pepper and the great damaging potential of this root rot, research on management strategies should be prioritized.