Passiflora edulis Sims f. edulis, known as purple passion fruit, is a woody, perennial vine that is grown for its attractive two-part flower and its purple, edible fruit (4). In November 2009, passion fruit vines were collected during a regulatory nursery inspection in Santa Barbara County and submitted to the California Department of Food and Agriculture Plant Pest Diagnostics Laboratory. Nearly 100% of the plants inspected, all of which were approximately 1.25 m tall, appeared stunted, defoliated, and severely wilted. Dark brown vascular discoloration was present in the roots and lower stems of the plants. A pinkish violet Fusarium oxysporum colony containing chlamydospores, multiseptate macroconidia, and microconidia formed on monophialidic conidiophores was consistently isolated from roots and stems onto half-strength acidified potato dextrose agar (aPDA). All further experiments were done with an isolate obtained from a single conidium. A portion of the translation elongation factor gene (TEF-1α) was amplified and sequenced with primers ef1 and ef2 from our isolate (GenBank No. JF332039) (3). BLAST analysis of the 615-bp amplicon with the FUSARIUM-ID database showed 99% similarity with a F. oxysporum passion fruit isolate from Australia (NRRL 38273) (3). To confirm pathogenicity, washed roots of four-leaf stage seedlings approximately 10 cm tall were submerged in a conidial spore suspension (106 spores/ml) for 15 min. The conidial suspension was prepared by flooding 10-day-old cultures grown on aPDA medium with sterile distilled water. Seven seedlings were inoculated and planted in 10-cm2 pots and kept in a 25°C growth chamber with a 12-h photoperiod. Seven seedlings were mock inoculated with sterile water. After 3 weeks, four of the seven inoculated plants had leaves with yellow veins and discolored roots and had partially defoliated. Two of the four symptomatic plants also had brown stem cankers. F. oxysporum grew from the isolated roots and stems of all the inoculated plants. F. oxysporum did not grow from root and stem pieces from the water-dipped plants and the plants remained asymptomatic. Inoculations were repeated on plants approximately 15 cm tall with F. oxysporum growing from roots and stem pieces of all inoculated plants. Symptoms of yellow veins and root necrosis were not observed until 4 weeks after inoculation. Fusarium wilt caused by F. oxysporum f. sp. passiflorae is a significant disease of P. edulis f. edulis in Australia. The disease has also been reported in South Africa, Malaysia, Brazil, Panama, and Venezuela; but it is unclear as to whether the symptoms were caused by Fusarium wilt or Haematonectria canker (1). Banana poka (P. mollissima), P. ligularis, and P. foetida are also susceptible hosts (2). To our knowledge, this is the first report of Fusarium wilt caused by F. oxysporum f. sp. passiflorae on passion fruit in North America. Passion fruit is not commercially produced for consumption in California so the economic importance of this disease appears to be limited to nursery production and ornamental landscapes. The grower of the California nursery stated that the infected passion fruit plants had been propagated on site from seed. The source of inoculum at this nursery remains unknown.
References: (1) I. H. Fischer and J. A. M. Rezende. Pest Tech. 2:1, 2008 (2) D. E. Garder. Plant. Dis. 73:476, 1989. (3) D. M. Geiser et al. Eur. J. Plant Pathol. 110:473, 2004. (4) F. W. Martin et al. Econ. Bot. 24:333, 1970.
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