María Esperanza Sánchez

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Dra. María Esperanza Sánchez Hernández


Profesora Titular de Universidad



Agroforest Pathology Group, Agronomy Department, ETSIAM, University of Córdoba

Campus Rabanales, Building C4  Ctra. Madrid-Cádiz Km. 396

P.O. Box 3084

14080 – Córdoba, Spain

Phone: +34 957 218530

Fax: +34 957 218569




General information



Born in Madrid (1963), currently I am Lecturer in Forest Pathology (promoted on 2008) at the Technical School of Agriculture and Forest Engineering (ETSIAM) belonging to the University of Córdoba (Spain).

I had a PhD in Biochemistry for the Autónoma University of Madrid (1990) and several research fellowships: at the Biology Research Centre (CIB, CSIC) (Madrid, Spain, 1985-1990), Forestry Department (INIA) (Madrid, Spain, 1991-1992), Forestry Department of the University of Aberdeen (Aberdeen, UK, 1993), Pathology Branch of the Forest Research Agency (Farnham, UK, 1993-1994), Agriculture Technical School of the University of Algarve (Portugal) (Faro, 1994 and 2005), and Forestry Department of the University of Florence (Firenze, Italy, 2005).

Since 1985, I have participated in 42 Research Projects or Contracts dealing with Forest Pathology and Mycology, publishing 65 scientific articles in Research Journals and 32 books or book chapters. I also made 130 contributions to international (51) and Spanish (79) scientific congresses and meetings.



Research interests

My research interests cover several topics on Forest Pathology.


Diseases associated with Mediterranean oak decline


Mediterranean oak decline is the main problem affecting forests ecosystems in Spain. Among other causes of decline (silvicultural, climatic, insect pests) root diseases caused by oomycetes (Phytophthora cinnamomi and Pythium spiculum) highlight in southwestern Spain and southern Portugal. Both soilborne pathogens are the main agents causing dieback and death of thousands cork (Quercus suber) and holm oaks (Q. ilex) in the region every year. Other important disease related with oak decline is the trunk and branch canker caused by Botryosphaeraceae fungi.




Since 1993, when I began to investigate this topic, I contributed to increase the knowledge of aetiological and epidemiological aspects of these diseases. These insights make me possible to address the study to control methods against disease spreading. Currently, I participate in research projects with main objectives focused on integrated control strategies applicable to rangelands and woodlands. The different control strategies against root diseases currently under research are: 1) soil application of inorganic (fertilizers) or organic (manure) amendments, 2) biofumigation, 3) chemical treatments (application of phosphonates by trunk injection). Other aspect of interest for disease control is the search for tree genitors resistant or tolerant to infection.







Dealing with canker control measures, the preventive application of different systemic or protective fungicides (and also mixtures of both types of products) is under study.







Recently, I started a nice collaboration with scientists from the Spanish Research Council (CSIC) to study diseases incidence in the Doñana heronry-cork oak woodlands. The main objective of this research program (Pajareras) is to monitor the presence and spread of oomycete root diseases already detected in this highly protected Park, declared as natural heritage of the humanity, in order to be able to propose effective control measures.




Andalusian fir diseases


The Andalusian fir (Abies pinsapo), is a relictic and protected fir species that grows in limited areas of the Málaga and Cadiz provinces in southern Spain. In field surveys carried out in A. pinsapo forests, a total of 81 disease foci were located, 72 in Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park in an area of approx. 3000 ha. In these foci, my research work determines that pinsapo firs were suffering from root decay causing mortality and windthrow. Isolates of the associated pathogen were morphologically and genetically identified as Heterobasidion abietinum in collaboration with the University of Florence (Italy). We also concluded that the disease spreads mainly by direct growth of the pathogen from tree to tree through root contacts or grafts. Primary infections came from airborne basidiospores germinating on fresh stump surfaces at least 25 years ago, when trees were commercially exploited, before the establishment of the protected Natural Parks. Other infection routes, such as germination of basidiospores in stem wounds of living trees, or insect-vectored transmission, appeared as less important. The consecution of all these results was financed by the Andalusian government. Now, I hope to keep financial support to study the control of this disease that is endangering the survival of this highly valuable fir species.




Phytopathogenic oomycetes


Under a purely mycological point of view, my interest is focused in still unknown oomycetes causing disease on forest trees. In this way, in collaboration with several mycologists from Switzerland, France, Poland and South Africa, I contributed to the first description of Pythium spiculum, Pythium sterilum and Pythium mercuriale, all of them newly known species causing root rot in Quercus and other woody genera. I also contributed to the first description of Phytophthora inundata, pathogenic to several woody hosts and mostly aggressive on Olea europaea in southern Spain. Currently, I am collaborating with molecular biologists from Switzerland and Portugal, looking for molecular markers specific for direct detection of Phytophthora cinnamomi and Pythium spiculum in environmental soil samples.





Forest disease diagnostic and advisory service


The research group on Agroforest Pathology (University of Córdoba) maintains a contract with the Andalusian Government (Environmental Council) to act as Reference Laboratory for Forest Diseases in Andalusia. I am in charge of this diagnosis service and every year we attend around 100 queries from the entire region for disease diagnosis and control recommendations.


All these research lines are possible because of the skilful collaboration of María S Serrano and Jonatan E Sánchez (PhD students) and P De Vita (MSc student), future specialists on Forest Pathology. It is also remarkable the collaboration of postgraduate students from the University of Córdoba.




Research projects (Selection of 10 latest years)

2011-2013 Control of holm oak root disease in rangeland ecosystems: biofumigation, fertilization and natural and induced resistance. Andalusia Government. Directed by P Fernández


2011-2013 Biogeochemical alterations induced by waterbirds in Mediterranean terrestrial ecosystems (BIOGEOBIRD). Andalusia Government. Directed by LV García


2010-2012 Cultural and biological control of the root disease caused by P. cinnamomi in oak-rangelands ecosystems; variability, stress response and clonal propagation of holm oak (AGL2009-1224). Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation. Coordinated by María Esperanza Sánchez

Subproject 1: Cultural and biological control of the root disease caused by P. cinnamomi in oak-rangelands ecosystems (DECOPHY). Directed by María Esperanza Sánchez


2009-2012 Decline of the Doñana heronry-cork oak woodland within a context of global change (DECALDO). Spanish Ministry of Environment. Directed by LV García


2009-2012 Established and emerging Phytophthora: Increasing threats to woodland and forest ecosystems in Europe (FP0801). European Union, COST Program. Directed by S Woodward


2008-2009 Urgent survey and phytopathological diagnosis of the Doñana heronry-cork oak woodland. Andalusia Government-EGMASA. Directed by María Esperanza Sánchez


2007-2009 Analysis of the oak decline in Andalusian agroforestry systems. Andalusia Government. Directed by P. Fernández


2006-2008 Quercus decline in southern Spain: biology and control of associated diseases and climatic impact (AGL2005-07151). Spanish Ministry of Science and Education. Coordinated by María Esperanza Sánchez

Subproject 1: Quercus decline in southern Spain: biology and control of associated diseases. Directed by María Esperanza Sánchez


2005-2006 Root decay of Abies pinsapo caused by Heterobasidion annosum in Málaga and Cádiz provinces. Disease incidence and cultural control methods. Andalusia Government. Directed by RM Navarro


2003-2004 Program for the conservation of Abies pinsapo ecosystems. Andalusia Government. Directed by RM Navarro


2003-2004 Phytophthora cinnamomi involvement in decline affecting Mediterranean species of the genus Quercus. Spanish Ministry of Science and Technology, Program of Integrated Actions of Scientific Research Spain-Portugal. Directed by JFP Ferraz


2003-2004 Cork and holm oak decline: disease aetiology and control measures (QUERCUS/SP5.P). European Union, Program INTERREG III. Directed by JFP Ferraz


2002-2005 Biological, epidemiological and silvicultural basis for the control of diseases associated with Quercus decline in Andalusia (AGL 2002-00530). Spanish Ministry of Science and Technology. Directed by María Esperanza Sánchez


2000-2003 Integrated control of olive diseases: Cock-eye disease and root rots. (AGL2000-1725). Spanish Ministry of Science and Education. Directed by A Trapero


1999-2002 Causes of decline of Mediterranean Quercus forests. Improvement techniques (1FD97-0911-CO3-03). European Union, Program FEDER. Coordinated by F Vázquez

Subproyect 3: Andalusia. Directed by A. Trapero





Publications (Selection of 10 latest years)


Serrano MS, Fernández P, De Vita P, Carbonero MD, Sánchez ME. 2011. The role of yellow lupin (Lupinus luteus) in the decline affecting oak agroforestry ecosystems. Forest Pathology (in press). doi: 10.1111/j.1439-0329.2010.00694.x


Serrano MS, Fernández P, De Vita P, Carbonero MD, Trapero A, Sánchez ME. 2010. Lupinus luteus, a new host of Phytophthora cinnamomi in Spanish oak-rangelands ecosystems. European Journal of Plant Pathology 128: 149-152


De Vita P, Serrano MS, Luchi N, Capretti P, Trapero A, Sánchez ME. 2010. Susceptibility of Abies pinsapo and its tree cohort species to Heterobasidion abietinum. Forest Pathology 40: 129-132


Vicente M, Sánchez ME, Fernández P, Trapero A. 2009. Evaluation of biofumigant plants and organic amendments for supresiveness of root rot of Quercus spp. caused by Phytophthora cinnamomi. Phytopathology 99: S134-135


Luchi N, Sánchez ME, Capretti P. 2008. Preliminary notes on the population structure of Heterobasidion abietinum from Abies pinsapo in Spain. Phytopathologia Mediterranea 47: 277-281


Fernández P, Serrano MS, De Vita P, Carbonero MD, Sánchez ME. 2008. Pathogenicity of Phytophthora cinnamomi on Lupinus luteus growing in Mediterranean Quercus grasslands. Journal of Plant Pathology 90: S2.177


De Vita P, Sánchez JE, Sánchez ME. 2008. Identification and spread of Heterobasidion abietinum in Abies pinsapo forests. Journal of Plant Pathology 90: S2.280


Belbahri L, McLeod A, Paul B, Calmin G, Moralejo E, Botha W, Spies C, Clemente A, Descals E, Sánchez-Hernández E, Lefort F. 2008. Intraspecific and within-isolate sequence variation in the ITS rDNA region of Pythium mercuriale sp. nov. FEMS Microbiology Letters 284: 17-27


Jiménez JJ, Sánchez JE, Romero MA, Belbahri L, Trapero A, Lefort F, Sánchez ME. 2008. Pathogenicity of Pythium spiculum and Pythium sterilum on feeder roots of Quercus rotundifolia. Plant Pathology 57: 369


Sánchez ME, Luchi N, Jiménez JJ, de Vita P, Sánchez JE, Trapero A, Capretti P. 2007. An isolated population of Heterobasidion abietinum on Abies pinsapo in Spain. Forest Pathology 37: 348-356 (2007)


Romero MA, Sánchez JE, Jiménez JJ, Belbahri L, Trapero A, Lefort F, Sánchez ME. 2007. New Pythium taxa causing root rot on Mediterranean Quercus species in southwest Spain and Portugal. Journal of Phytopathology 155: 289-295


Jiménez JJ, Sánchez JE, Romero MA, Belbahri L, Trapero A, Lefort F, Sánchez ME. 2007. Pathogenicity of Pythium spiculum and Pythium sterilum on feeder roots of Quercus rotundifolia. New Disease Reports Volume 14: Aug. 2006 - Jan. 2007 (


Belbahri L, Calmin G, Sánchez-Hernández E, Oszako T, Lefort F. 2006. Pythium sterilum sp. nov. isolated from Poland, Spain and France, its morphology and molecular phylogenetic position. FEMS Microbiology Letters 255: 209-214 (2006)


Paul B, Bala K, Belbahri L, Calmin G, Sánchez-Hernández E, Lefort F. 2006. A new species of Pythium with ornamented oogonia: morphology, taxonomy, ITS region of its rDNA, and its comparison with related species. FEMS Microbiology Letters 254: 317-323


Sánchez ME, Andicoberry S, Trapero A. 2005. Pathogenicity of three Phytophthora spp. causing late seedling rot of Quercus ilex ssp. ballota. Forest Pathology 35: 115-125


Romero MA, Sánchez ME, Trapero A. 2005. First report of Botryosphaeria ribis as a branch dieback pathogen of olive trees in Spain. Plant Disease 89: 208


Sánchez ME, Venegas J, Romero MA, Phillips AJL, Trapero A. 2003. Botryosphaeria and related taxa causing oak canker in southwestern Spain. Plant Disease 87: 1515-1521


Trapero A, Romero MA, Varo R, Sánchez ME. 2003. First report of Pestalotiopsis maculans causing necrotic leaf spots in nursery plants of Arbutus unedo and Ceratonia siliqua in Spain. Plant Disease 87: 1263


Brasier CM, Sánchez-Hernández E, Kirk SA. 2003. Phytophthora inundata sp. nov., a part heterothallic pathogen of trees and shrubs in wet or flooded soils. Mycological Research 107: 477-484


Trapero A, Sánchez ME. 2003. Quercus canariensis, a new host of Trabutia quercina. Plant Disease 87: 201


Sánchez ME, Gutiérrez J, Trapero A. Botryosphaeria canker of Cistus ladanifer. Plant Pathology 51: 364-372 (2002)


Sánchez ME, Lora F, Trapero A. 2002. First report of Cylindrocarpon destructans as a root rot pathogen of Mediterranean Quercus species in Spain. Plant Disease 86: 693


Sánchez ME, Andicoberry S, Trapero A. 2002. Phytophthora root rot of Aleppo pine seedlings in a forest nursery in Spain. Plant Disease 86: 563


Sánchez ME, Caetano P, Ferraz J, Trapero A. 2002. Phytophthora disease of Quercus ilex in southwestern Spain. Forest Pathology 32: 5-18


Sánchez ME, Muñoz M, Brasier CM, Trapero A. 2001. Identity and pathogenicity of two Phytophthora taxa associated with a new root disease of olive trees. Plant Disease 85: 411-416

















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