In July 2012, a fruit rot disease was observed in several commercial fig tree orchards located in the Podgorica region in Montenegro. Symptoms on fruits initially appeared as small circular to oval, light brown, necrotic, sunken spots located mostly on the areas surrounding the ostiolar canal with an average diameter of 5 to 10 mm, which gradually enlarged in size leading to total fruit rot. Disease incidence on fruit across the fields ranged from 15 to 20% but the disease did not increase further due to hot and dry conditions thereafter. No foliar symptoms were observed. Small pieces (5 mm2) of symptomatic fruits were excised from the junction of diseased and healthy tissue, surface sterilized in 70% ethanol solution for 1 min, washed in three changes of sterile distilled water, air dried, and transferred to potato dextrose agar (PDA). After 2 to 3 days of incubation at 25°C, a fungus was consistently isolated. The isolates had radial growth and produced sooty black colonies. Microscopic observations of the colonies revealed brown septate hyphae and simple or branched conidiophores 30 to 65 μm long and 3 to 4.5 μm wide. Dark brown conidia were in chains (3 to 7), sized 10 to 35 × 5 to 9 μm, ellipsoid to ovoid, with 2 to 5 transverse and a few (1 to 3) to no longitudinal septa. Based on morphological characteristics, the fungus was identified as Alternaria alternata (3). For molecular identification, DNA was extracted from mycelia and conidia of two representative single spore isolates designated as ALT1-fCG and ALT2-fCG. PCR was carried out using internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region primers ITS4/ITS5 and A. alternata species-specific primers AAF2/AAR3 (1). Both primer pairs gave PCR products that were subjected to direct sequencing. BLAST analysis of the 546-bp ITS4/ITS5 (KF438091) and 294-bp AAF2/AAR3 (KF438092) sequences revealed 100% identity with several A. alternata isolates. Pathogenicity tests were conducted on 30 detached almost ripe and healthy fig fruit (cv. Primorka) by spraying them with a conidial suspension of the isolated fungus (106 conidia/ml) with a handheld sprayer. Thirty fruit inoculated with sterile water served as the non-inoculated control. Inoculated and control fruit were kept in a moist chamber at 25°C. Symptoms appeared on inoculated fruit 2 to 3 days after inoculation and all fruit were completely rotted 5 to 6 days after inoculation. Control fruit did not display any symptoms. A. alternata was consistently re-isolated from inoculated fruit, fulfilling Koch's postulates. The fig fruit rot caused by A. alternata has been reported before in California (2) and elsewhere mainly as postharvest pathogen. To our knowledge, this is the first report of fruit rot caused by A. alternata on fig in Montenegro. Considering Podgorica as the largest fig-producing area and the importance of fig as a traditionally grown crop, it could pose a threat to fig production in Montenegro. Voucher specimens are available at the culture collections of the University of Montenegro, Biotechnical Faculty.
References: (1) P. Konstantinova et al. Mycol. Res. 106:23, 2002. (2) T. J. Michailides et al. Plant Dis. 78:44-50, 1994. (3) E. G. Simmons. Page 775 in: Alternaria and Identification Manual. CBS Fungal Biodiversity Centre, 2007.