Apples are kept in controlled atmosphere cold storage for 9 to 12 months and are highly susceptible to postharvest decay caused by various fungi. Fusarium avenaceum is a wound pathogen that has been shown to account for the majority of Fusarium rot on apple fruit in Croatia (1). F. avenaceum produces an array of mycotoxins including moniliformin, acuminatopyrone, and chrysogine, which are of primary concern for the apple processing industry (2). In February 2013, ‘Gala’ apple fruits with soft, circular, brown, watery lesions with characteristic abundant whitish mycelium covering the surface of the colonized fruit were obtained from bins from a commercial storage facility located in Pennsylvania. Several samples were collected and prepared for pathogen isolation. Apples were rinsed with sterile water, and the lesions were sprayed with 70% ethanol until runoff. The apple skin was aseptically removed with a scalpel, and asymptomatic tissue was placed onto full strength potato dextrose agar (PDA) petri plates without antibiotics and incubated at 25°C under natural light. Two single-spore isolates were propagated on PDA and permanent cultures were maintained as slants and stored in a cold room at 4°C in the dark. Fungal colonies initially formed abundant fluffy white mycelium and produced a golden orange pigment on PDA at 25°C. Isolates were identified as Fusarium based on cultural and conidial morphology as macroconidia were slightly falcate, thin-walled, usually 3 to 5 septate, with a tapering apical cell that was on average 23.6 μm long × 5.0 μm wide (n = 50). Microconidia were produced on PDA plates while chlamydospores were not evident. Identity of the isolates was confirmed through DNA extraction followed by amplification and sequencing of the translation elongation factor (EF-1α, 350 bp) gene region. The amplicons were sequenced using the forward and reverse primers and assembled into a consensus representing 2X coverage. MegaBLAST analysis revealed that both isolates were 100% identical with many other culture collection F. avenaceum sequences in Genbank (Accessions JQ949291.1, JQ949305.1, and JQ949283.1), which confirms their identification in conjunction with the morphological observations. Koch's postulates were conducted to determine pathogenicity using organic ‘Gala’ apple fruit that were surface sanitized with soap and water, sprayed with 70% ethanol, and wiped dry. The fruit were wounded with a finishing nail to 3 mm depth, inoculated with 50 μl of a conidial suspension (1 × 104 conidia/ml) using a hemocytometer, and stored at 25°C in 80-count boxes on paper trays for 21 days. Water-only controls were symptomless. Ten fruit composed a replicate for each isolate, and the experiment was repeated. Symptoms observed on artificially inoculated ‘Gala’ apple fruit were identical to the decay observed on ‘Gala’ apples that were obtained from cold storage. Decay caused by F. avenaceum may represent an emerging problem for the apple storage and processing industry. Therefore, it is important to monitor for this pathogen to prevent future losses and mycotoxin contamination of processed fruit products caused by this fungus. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of Fusarium rot caused by F. avenaceum on apple fruit from cold storage in the United States.
References: (1) Z. Sever et al. Arch. Ind. Hygiene Toxicol. 63:463, 2012. (2) J. L. Sorenson. J. Agric. Food Chem. 57:1632, 2009.