During August 2012, vertical oozing cankers were sporadically observed on trunks and branches of walnut trees (Juglans regia) in the city of Zánka, near Lake Balaton and other parts of Hungary including Budapest, Győr, and Tatabánya cities. Cankers were observed on trunks and branches where brownish-black exudates staining the bark appeared mainly in the summer. Isolations were performed primarily from exudates but also from infected tissues using King's medium B (KB) (3) and EMB medium (2). Colonies similar in appearance to Brenneria nigrifluens (syn.: Erwinia nigrifluens) (1,5) were isolated. The bacterium, first reported in California, was also recorded in Iran, Spain, France, and several Italian locations, on walnut trees. The bacterial strain was gram negative and did not induce a hypersensitive response on tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum L. ‘White Burley’) leaves. The bacterium grew at 26°C. Colonies on KB were white and non-fluorescent, but on EMB medium were a typical dark purple with metallic green sheen. The results of substrate utilization profiling using the API 20E kit (Biomérieux, Marcy l'Etoile, France) showed that the bacterium belonged to the Enterobacteriaceae. The strain was positive for citrate utilization, H2S, and acetoin production and urease, glucose, inositol, saccharose, and arabinose reactions. Pathogenicity was tested by injecting five young healthy walnut branches on two separate 2-year-old grafted potted plants with a bacterial suspension containing 107 CFU/ml. Negative controls were walnut branches injected with sterile distilled water. Branches were enclosed in plastic bags and incubated in a greenhouse under 80% shade at 26°C day and 17°C night temperatures. Three months after inoculation, necrotic lesions were observed in the inner bark and dark lines were observed in internal wood, but no external cankers were observed on inoculated branches. The negative control appeared normal. B. nigrifluens was re-isolated from lesions on inoculated branches and identified as described above; thus, Koch's postulates were fulfilled. For molecular identification of the pathogen, 16S rDNA amplification was performed using genomic DNA from strain Bn-WalnutZa-Hun1 with a universal bacterial primer set (63f and 1389r) (4). The PCR products were cloned into a pGEM T-Easy vector (Promega, Madison, WI) and transformed into Escherichia coli DH5α cells. A recombinant plasmid (2A2.5) was sequenced using M13 forward and reverse primers. The sequence was deposited in NCBI GenBank (Accession No. HF936707) and showed 99% sequence identity with a number of B. nigrifluens strains, including type strains Z96095.1, AJ233415.1, JX484740.1, JX484739.1, JX484738.1, and FJ611884.1. On the basis of the symptoms, colony morphology, biochemical tests, and 16S rDNA sequence identity, the pathogen was identified as Brenneria nigrifluens. To our knowledge, this is the first report of a natural outbreak of bacterial bark canker on walnut in Hungary and the presence of the pathogen may seriously influence in local orchards and garden production in the future.
References: (1) L. Hauben et al. Appl Microbiol 21:384, 1998. (2) J. E. Holt-Harris and O. Teague. J. Infect. Dis. 18:596, 1916. (3) E. O. King et al. J. Lab. Clin. Med. 44:301, 1954. (4) A. M. Osborn et al. Environ. Microbiol. 2:39, 2000. (5) E. E. Wilson et al. Phytopathology 47:669, 1957.
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