Pectobacterium species cause disease worldwide in many crop and ornamental plants, including potato. A new Pectobacterium subspecies, P. carotovorum subsp. brasiliensis was recently described in Brazil and later found in the United States, Israel, and South Africa. Its virulence traits and host range remain unknown. A comparison of three taxa commonly found on potato showed that both P. carotovorum subsp. carotovorum and subsp. brasiliensis are more aggressive in causing tuber and stem soft rot than P. atrosepticum. Also, despite bacterial growth inhibition in vitro of P. carotovorum subsp. carotovorum and P. atrosepticum strains by P. carotovorum subsp. brasiliensis, this new subspecies and P. carotovorum subsp. carotovorum are able to co-colonize in the same infected tissue. Both subspecies were motile in lesions. Pathogenesis assays showed that host ranges of all three overlap, but are not identical. The host ranges of individual strains of P. carotovorum subsp. carotovorum and subsp. brasiliensis are limited, whereas P. atrosepticum can macerate many plant species in addition to potato. There was high variability in virulence assays with potato tuber; thus physiological factors were investigated. Tuber size, maturity, and field location had significant effects on susceptibility to soft rot, with larger, more mature tubers being more susceptible.
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