Cucurbit powdery mildew caused by the obligate parasite Podosphaera xanthii occurs commonly on foliage, petioles, and stems of most cucurbit crops grown in the United States. (3). However, in the field, fruit infection on cucurbits including watermelon (Citrullus lanatus), is rarely, if ever, observed (2). Consequently, it was atypical when severe powdery mildew-like symptoms were observed on seedless and seeded watermelon fruit on several commercial farms in southwestern Florida during November and December 2010. Severe powdery mildew was also observed on ‘Tri-X 313’ and ‘Mickey Lee’ fruit grown at SWFREC, Immokalee, FL. Infected fruit developed poorly and were not marketable. Powdery mildew symptoms were mainly observed on young immature fruit, but not on mature older fruit. Abundant powdery mildew conidia occurred on fruit surface, but not on the leaves. Conidia were produced in chains and averaged 35 × 21 μm. Observation of conidia in 3% KOH indicated the presence of fibrosin bodies commonly found in the cucurbit powdery mildew genus Podosphaera (3). Orange-to-dark brown chasmothecia (formerly cleisthothecia) containing a single ascus were detected on the surface of some fruit samples. Conidial DNA was subjected to PCR using specific primers designed to amplify the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region of Podosphaera (4). The resulting amplicons were sequenced and found to be 100% identical to the ITS sequences of P. xanthii in the NCBI database (D84387, EU367960, AY450961, AB040322, AB040315). Sequences from the watermelon fruit isolate were also identical to several P. fusca (synonym P. xanthii), P. phaseoli (GQ927253), and P. balsaminae (AB462803) sequences. On the basis of morphological characteristics and ITS sequence analysis, the pathogen infecting watermelon fruit can be considered as P. xanthii (1,3,4). The powdery mildew isolate from watermelon fruit was maintained on cotyledons of squash (Cucurbita pepo, ‘Early Prolific Straight Neck’). Cotyledons and leaves of five plants each of various cucurbits and beans were inoculated with 10 μl of a conidial suspension (105conidia/ml) in water (0.02% Tween 20). Two weeks after inoculation, abundant conidia were observed on cucumber (Cucumis sativus, ‘SMR-58’) and melon (Cucumis melo) powdery mildew race differentials ‘Iran H’ and ‘Vedrantais’. However, no growth was observed on melon differentials ‘PI 414723’, ‘Edisto 47’, ‘PMR 5’, ‘PMR 45’, ‘MR 1’, and ‘WMR 29’ (2,3). The powdery mildew isolate from watermelon fruit behaved as melon race 1 (3). Mycelium and conidia were also observed on fruit surface of watermelon ‘Sugar Baby’ and a susceptible U.S. plant introduction (PI 538888) 3 weeks after inoculation. However, the disease was not as severe as what was observed in the fields in fall 2010. The pathogen did not grow on plants of Impatiens balsamina or on select bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) cultivars (‘Red Kidney’, ‘Kentucky Blue’, and ‘Derby Bush’), but did grow and produce abundant conidia on ‘Pinto bush bean’. Powdery mildew on watermelon fruit in production fields can be considered as a potentially new and serious threat requiring further studies to develop management strategies.
References: (1) U. Braun and S. Takamatsu. Schlechtendalia 4:1, 2000. (2) A. R. Davis et al. J. Am. Soc. Hortic. Sci. 132:790, 2007. (3) M. T. McGrath and C. E. Thomas. In: Compendium of Cucurbit Diseases. American Phytopathological Society, St. Paul, MN, 1996. (4) S. Takamatsu and Y. Kano. Mycoscience 42:135, 2001.
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