In October 2011, a new disease of dragon fruit (Hylocereus costaricensis) was discovered in a fruit market in Yuanjiang, Yunnan Province, China. Small, light brown, water-soaked spots appeared initially and then coalesced, extending to the entire fruit in 6 days. Hyaline hyphae and light brown sporangia were observed over the entire surface of the infected fruit. On potato sucrose agar (PSA) the fungus produced a white, appressed colony that covered a 9-cm diameter petri dish in less than 5 days at 25°C. The sporangiophores were hyaline, light brown to grayish, 44.71 to 143.14 (average = 85.10) μm long, and arose directly from the non-septate substrate hyphae. The sporangia were spherical, single, and terminal and yellow-brown to brown when young turning to dark brown or black at maturity. Both the sporangiophores and sporangia were covered with calcium oxalate crystals. When mounted in a drop of water, the sporangium immediately broke longitudinally into two halves, releasing the spores and exposing a large pyriform columella at the tip of the sporangiophore. The spores were mostly globose to ellipsoid, aseptate, and 5.15 (3.71 to 7.86) × 6.30 (4.08 to 9.19) μm (n = 300). Two to three slender, hyaline appendages were attached to the ends of the spores. The cardinal growth temperatures of the pathogen were 10, 30, and 40°C and it grew faster in the dark than under 12-h alternating light-dark cycles. The fungus was identified as Gilbertella persicaria (1). To confirm the identification, the internal transcribed spacer region of the nuclear rDNA of one isolate was amplified using the fungal primers ITS1 and ITS4. The nucleotide sequence (Accession No. JQ951601) showed 98% homology with G. persicaria in GenBank (HM999958). Pathogenicity tests were carried out on two species of dragon fruit, H. costaricensis and H. undatus, by placing a 6-mm diameter young mycelial PSA agar disc on the surface of an asymptomatic fruit, either unwounded or wounded with a sterile needle. As the control, a plain PSA disc was used. Each inoculated fruit was placed in a moist chamber and incubated at 25°C. Three fruits were used per treatment and the experiment was repeated twice. The fruits rotted in 2 to 3 days, and the disease was especially serious on wounded fruits and on H. costaricensis. The fungus was reisolated from infected fruits. The controls did not show any disease symptoms. Inoculation studies were also made on other fruits but rot was produced only on peach, pear, and wounded tomato. To our knowledge, this is the first record of dragon fruit rot caused by G. persicaria. The fungus had been reported in China but caused no diseases (2). In India, it caused fruit rot of pear, tomato, and peach (3). To minimize the disease, dragon fruit should be stored at low temperature and in uncovered containers.
References: (1) G. L. Benny. Mycologia 83:150, 1991. (2) J. Y. Cheng and H. Y. Mei. Acta Phytotax. Sin. 10:105, 1965. (3) M. D. Mehrotra. Mycopath. Mycol. Appl. 29:151, 1966.
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