Tedera (Bituminaria bituminosa (L.) C.H. Stirton vars albomarginata and crassiuscula) is being established as a perennial pasture legume in southwest Australia because of its drought tolerance and ability to persist well during the dry summer and autumn period. Calico (bright yellow mosaic) leaf symptoms occurred on occasional tedera plants growing in genetic evaluation plots containing spaced plants at Newdegate in 2007 and Buntine in 2010. Alfalfa mosaic virus (AlMV) infection was suspected as it often causes calico in infected plants (1,2) and infects perennial pasture legumes in local pastures (1,3). Because AlMV frequently infects Medicago sativa (alfalfa) in Australia and its seed stocks are commonly infected (1,3), M. sativa buffer rows were likely sources for spread by aphids to healthy tedera plants. When leaf samples from plants with typical calico symptoms from Newdegate (2007) and Buntine (2010) were tested by ELISA using poyclonal antisera to AlMV, Bean yellow mosaic virus (BYMV) and Cucumber mosaic virus (CMV), only AlMV was detected. When leaf samples from 864 asymptomatic spaced plants belonging to 34 tedera accessions growing at Newdegate and Mount Barker in 2010 were tested by ELISA, no AlMV, BYMV, or CMV were detected, despite presence of M. sativa buffer rows. A culture of AlMV isolate EW was maintained by serial planting of infected seed of M. polymorpha L. (burr medic) and selecting seed-infected seedlings (1,3). Ten plants each of 61 accessions from the local tedera breeding program were grown at 20°C in an insect-proof air conditioned glasshouse. They were inoculated by rubbing leaves with infective sap containing AlMV-EW or healthy sap (five plants each) using Celite abrasive. Inoculations were always done two to three times to the same plants. When both inoculated and tip leaf samples from each plant were tested by ELISA, AlMV was detected in 52 of 305 AlMV-inoculated plants belonging to 36 of 61 accessions. Inoculated leaves developed local necrotic or chlorotic spots or blotches, or symptomless infection. Systemic invasion was detected in 20 plants from 12 accessions. Koch's postulates were fulfilled in 12 plants from nine accessions (1 to 2 of 5 plants each), obvious calico symptoms developing in uninoculated leaves, and AlMV being detected in symptomatic samples by ELISA, inoculation of sap to diagnostic indicator hosts (2) and RT-PCR with AlMV CP gene primers. Direct RT-PCR products were sequenced and lodged in GenBank. When complete nucleotide CP sequences (666 nt) of two isolates from symptomatic tedera samples and two from alfalfa (Aq-JX112758, Hu-JX112759) were compared with that of AlMV-EW, those from tedera and EW were identical (JX112757) but had 99.1 to 99.2% identities to the alfalfa isolates. JX112757 had 99.4% identity with Italian tomato isolate Y09110. Systemically infected tedera foliage sometimes also developed vein clearing, mosaic, necrotic spotting, leaf deformation, leaf downcurling, or chlorosis. Later-formed leaves sometimes recovered, but plant growth was often stunted. No infection was detected in the 305 plants inoculated with healthy sap. To our knowledge, this is the first report of AlMV infecting tedera in Australia or elsewhere.
References: (1) B. A. Coutts and R. A. C. Jones. Ann. Appl. Biol. 140:37, 2002. (2) E. M. J. Jaspars and L. Bos. Association of Applied Biologists, Descriptions of Plant Viruses No. 229, 1980. (3) R. A. C. Jones. Aust. J. Agric. Res. 55:757, 2004.