Etiological and epidemiological aspects of apical necrosis of walnut fruit were studied on cultivars Chandler, Franquette, and Hartley in a Spanish walnut orchard during 2007 and 2008. Affected fruit showed brown necrosis beginning at the blossom end of nuts; these symptoms differed from lesions of common blight of walnut (Xanthomonas arboricola pv. juglandis). X. arboricola pv. juglandis was consistently isolated from apical lesions throughout the growing season. Field isolates reproduced symptoms observed in the orchard when inoculated on immature detached walnut fruit in the laboratory. Sporadic occurrence of Fusarium spp. and Alternaria spp., mainly in dropped fruit, was attributed to secondary colonization of apical lesions that were originally caused by X. arboricola pv. juglandis. Apical necrosis and common blight were similar in disease epidemiology and cultivar susceptibility; a major increase in epidemics occurred at initial fruit development, and cvs. Chandler and Hartley were more affected than cv. Franquette. Our results suggest that apical necrosis is a new manifestation of walnut blight characterized by distinct symptoms and severe premature fruit drop.
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