Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) production is developing quickly in China with about 20,000 ha presently cultivated. In 2010 in Lin'an, Zhejiang Province, plants developed an apparently new disease of blueberry (cv. Duke) with symptoms consisting of wilting of foliage, stunting of plants, and reduced fruit yields. Internal vascular and cortical tissues of plant crowns showed a brown to orange discoloration. Approximately 3% of the plants in the commercial plantings were affected and eventually died after 50 to 60 days. Infected plant samples (stems and roots) collected from different fields were surface sterilized with 1.5% sodium hypochlorite for 2 min, rinsed in water, plated on 2% potato dextrose agar (PDA), and incubated at 25°C in the dark for 1 week. Single conidium cultures were consistently isolated and cultured on acidified PDA (APDA) for morphological characterization (1,2). Colonies were light with purple mycelia, and beige or orange reverse colony colors developed after 7 days incubation at 25°C. Colonies producing abundant microconidia and macroconidia. Microconidia were hyaline and oval-ellipsoid to cylindrical (3.9 to 9.6 × 1.1 to 3.4 μm). Macroconidia were 3 to 5 septate and fusoid-subulate with a pedicellate base (28.6 to 37.5 × 3.3 to 4.2 μm). Morphology and development of macroconidia and microconida were consistent with a description of Fusarium oxysporum Schltdl (1,2). The ribosomal internal transcribed spacers ITS1 and ITS2 of eight isolates were amplified using primers ITS1/ITS4 on DNA extracted from mycelium and nucleotide sequences showed 100% similarity to that of F. oxysporum. To confirm pathogenicity, 20 blueberry plants (cv. Duke) were inoculated by dipping the roots into a conidial suspension (107 conidia per ml) for 30 min. The inoculated plants were transplanted into pots containing sterilized peat and maintained at 25°C and 100% relative humidity in a growth chamber with a daily 12-h photoperiod of fluorescent light. The pathogenicity test was conducted twice. Within 40 days, all inoculated plants developed wilt symptoms similar to that observed in the field. No symptoms were observed on plants dipped into distilled water. The fungus was successfully re-isolated from crowns and roots cultured on APDA, exhibiting morphological characteristics identical to F. oxysporum (1,2), confirming Koch's postulates. To our knowledge, this is the first report of blueberry wilt caused by Fusarium.
References: (1) P. M. Kirk et al. The Dictionary of the Fungi, 10th edition, page 159. CABI Bioscience, Wallingford, UK, 2008. (2) W. C. Snyder and H. N. Hansen. Am. J. Bot. 27:64, 1940.