Spread of leaf scald in modern sugarcane cultivars in Guadeloupe occurs through aerial dissemination of Xanthomonas albilineans. However, the importance of host genotype on the foliar spread of leaf scald has never been investigated. To explore this, we followed two trials used to screen sugarcane cultivars for resistance to leaf scald under natural inoculum pressure. Leaf scald epidemic characteristics were studied by measuring epiphytic populations of X. albilineans, leaf symptom incidence and severity, and the number of infected stalks. In both trials, epiphytic X. albilineans populations and incidence of foliar symptoms varied between sugarcane cultivars (P < 0.001 in each trial for both traits) and differences in stalk infection between cultivars was also observed (P < 0.002 and P < 0.07 for trials A and B, respectively). Part of the cultivar resistance that minimizes epiphytic bacterial populations is correlated to resistance to internal leaf tissue infection as expressed by leaf symptoms. No correlation was found between epiphytic X. albilineans populations of cultivar and the incidence of stalk infection. However, foliar symptom incidence was inconsistently correlated with stalk infection. Resistance of sugarcane to leaf scald appears to involve several traits, including limiting size of epiphytic X. albilineans populations and limiting the capacity of the pathogen to produce leaf necrotic symptoms by invading the leaf vascular system or to move from the leaf into the stalk.
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