During the summer of 2010, unfamiliar symptoms of fruit rot were frequently observed on different Tunisian olive (Olea europaea) cultivars. These symptoms appeared to be associated with the damage caused by the olive fruit fly (Bactrocera oleae). At first, infected olives showed a brown color and then fruits begin to depress until they become completely mummified and fall immaturely. This problem was more pronounced on table olive cultivars (Ascolana, Meski, and Picholine) in the northern Tunisian regions (Nabeul), with an infection incidence of 65%. Infected Ascolana olives were disinfected with 70% ethanol for 2 min, rinsed in sterile distilled water, and air dried. Several pieces were cut and placed on acidified (2.5 ml of a 25% [vol/vol] solution of lactic acid per liter of medium) potato dextrose agar medium (PDA). All plates were incubated at 25°C for 4 days under continuous fluorescent light. A fast-growing fungus with an abundant, aerial mycelium, which was gradually veering from white to dark gray, was constantly isolated. On the reverse side of the colonies, an olive green coloration spread to the edge and became darker from the center until the underside was completely black. Conidia produced on the PDA plate were hyaline, single or double cell, ellipsoid, with a subobtuse apex and a truncate base, and averaged 22.70 × 5.32 μm. Conidiophores were hyaline, cylindrical, smooth, branched at the base, with an average of 14 to 24 × 2 to 3 μm. Pathogenicity of an isolate was conducted by dipping 20 olives wounded by a sterilized scalpel in a conidial suspension (105 conidia/ml), covering inoculated olives with moisture filter paper, and incubating them in a polyethylene bag under darkness at 25°C. Controls however, were wounded and dipped in sterile distillated water. Seven days after the inoculation, olives showed a brown color covering half of the fruit. Later (15 days after), this browning was accentuated and several black pycnidia were observed. Forty days after inoculation, fruits were completely dried out and the kernel was already appearing. Controls, however, remained totally healthy. Koch's postulates was then verified and showed that pure cultures were obtained after reisolations from inoculated olives, whereas the controls were free of the fungus. BLAST analysis of the internal transcribed spacer region (ITS) of rDNA of one isolate showed 99% identity with the ITS sequence of Botryosphaeria dothidea (GenBank Accession No. FM955381.1). Species of the family of Botryosphaeriaceae are common pathogens causing fruit rot and dieback of many woody plants (3). Drupe rot problem caused by B. dothidea was reported on olives in Greece (4) and southern Italy (2). It was reported that the fungus invades the drupes through the wounds caused by the olive fruit fly and may even be transmitted by it (1), and recently Moral et al. (3) suggested that the olive fruit fly is essential for the initiation of the disease on the fruit. To our knowledge, this is the first report of fruit rot of olives caused by B. dothidea in Tunisia.
References: (1) N. González et al. Bol. San. Veg. Plagas 32:709, 2006. (2) C. Lazzizera et al. Plant Pathol. 57:948, 2008. (3) J. Moral et al. Phytopathology 100:1340, 2010. (4) A. J. L Phillips et al. Mycopathology 159:433, 2005.
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