Australasian Plant Pathology

, Volume 48, Issue 4, pp 409–424 | Cite as

Detecting symptoms of Phytophthora cinnamomi infection in Australian native vegetation using reflectance spectrometry: complex effects of water stress and species susceptibility

  • Z. NewbyEmail author
  • R. J. Murphy
  • D. I. Guest
  • D. Ramp
  • E. C. Y Liew
Original Paper


Diseases in natural and agricultural systems have been linked to species of the Oomycete genus Phytophthora, around the world. Direct detection of the pathogen requires sampling of soil or plant material, which can be expensive, difficult to obtain and error-prone. As an alternative, reflectance spectroscopy provides a potential indirect method for detecting symptoms of infection by P. cinnamomi. Here we evaluate the use of reflectance spectroscopy to detect physiological changes associated with infection in host plants using spectral indices designed to quantify changes in plant pigments (pigment indices), leaf water content (water indices) and fluorescence (fluorescence indices). Two grasses and two tree species with different susceptibilities to P. cinnamomi were inoculated and/or exposed to water stress in a glasshouse experiment. Inoculated plants were detected using pigment and fluorescence indices, which also had the capacity to separate inoculated plants from water stressed uninoculated plants. While inoculation may have caused an opposing spectral response to water stress in some indices, plants that were both water stressed and inoculated then demonstrated an intermediate response. Water stress was detected using the water indices in all four species, and spectroscopic changes associated with inoculation were often greater in the susceptible species. Our results indicate that reflectance spectroscopy at the leaf scale detects the effects of P. cinnamomi infection in native vegetation. Extending these results has the potential to improve early detection of disease in natural vegetation and avoiding manual sampling, thus improving management of the disease.


Phytophthora cinnamomi Hyperspectral reflectance Disease detection Plant pathogens Spectroscopy 



This work formed part of Z. Newby’s PhD which was funded by the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust and the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment, The University of Sydney. Z. Newby wishes to thank the Challis Bequest Society and D. Stammers for Scholarship funding, the Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute and students of the Plant Pathology Laboratory at the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney for their assistance throughout the project.


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Copyright information

© Australasian Plant Pathology Society Inc. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Australian PlantBankThe Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan, Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain TrustMount AnnanAustralia
  2. 2.Australian Centre for Field Robotics, Department of Aerospace, Mechanical & Mechatronic EngineeringThe University of SydneyCamperdownAustralia
  3. 3.Sydney Institute of Agriculture, School of Life and Environmental SciencesThe University of SydneyCamperdownAustralia
  4. 4.Centre for Compassionate Conservation, School of Life SciencesUniversity of Technology SydneyUltimoAustralia
  5. 5.The Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain TrustSydneyAustralia

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