In July 2013, a melon plant sample (Cucumis melo cv. Saski) with disease symptoms resembling bacterial fruit blotch (BFB), was collected from a 10-acre field located in Yolo County, California, and submitted to the Plant Pest Diagnostics Center of the CDFA. Melon leaves had small (5 to 10 mm in diameter), tan to dark reddish-brown, angular lesions surrounded by yellow halos, and larger V-shaped lesions that extended from the leaf margins to the midrib. Bacterial streaming was observed at 400× magnification. The bacterium isolated from a leaf tissue wet mount formed smooth, round, cream-colored, non-fluorescent colonies on Pseudomonas F agar, was gram-negative, rod-shaped, aerobic, and oxidase-positive. The strain grew at 41°C and produced a strong hypersensitive response on tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) 24 h after tissue infiltration. Based on a positive immunoassay test for Acidovorax citrulli (Eurofins STA Lab, Inc., Longmont, CO) and positive real-time PCR assays using species-specific primer sets, BX-L1/BX-S-R2 (1) and ZUP2436/2437 (4), the strain was identified as A. citrulli. A 360-bp fragment of the 16S ribosomal RNA gene was amplified using conventional PCR with primers WFB1 and WFB2 (3). The fragment, GenBank Accession No. KJ531595, showed 100% identity with the corresponding regions of A. citrulli (CP000512) strain AAC00-1 by BLAST query. Pathogenicity tests were performed by injecting 0.5 to 1 ml suspensions of the bacteria (106 CFU/ml) under the rind of three mature honeydew fruit (Cucumis melo var. indorus), three watermelon fruit (Citrullus lanatus cv. Sugar Baby), and into the cotyledons of ten, 10-day-old watermelon seedlings (cv. Sugar Baby). The fruit and seedlings were incubated in plastic bags at 30°C and similar treatments with sterile water served as negative controls. After 4 days, the seedlings inoculated with the suspect strain exhibited dark brown necrotic lesions with yellow halos that later coalesced, causing the cotyledons to collapse. Seven days after inoculation, the honeydew fruit exhibited dry, rotten gray cavities (4 to 6 cm in diameter) in the pericarp tissue below the rind. In contrast, the watermelon fruit had completely collapsed in a watery rot after 7 days. No symptoms were observed on the negative control fruits and seedlings treated with water. The pathogen was re-isolated from the inoculated fruit and seedlings and confirmed as A. citrulli by species-specific PCR and immunoassay as described above. The melon seed lot used to plant the field in Yolo County, CA, also tested positive for A. citrulli using species-specific real-time PCR assays (1,4). DNA fingerprinting by pulse field gel electrophoresis of Spe I-digested whole cell genomic DNA showed that all of the California A. citrulli strains were members of subgroup II (haplotype C strain) (3). These haplotypes normally occur on watermelon. BFB is a seed-transmitted disease of cucurbits and a major concern for national and global seed trade. First observed in United States commercial watermelon fields in 1989, BFB can cause economic losses up to 90% for commercial watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew growers (1,2). While BFB routinely occurs in the southeastern United States, this is the first official record of the disease in California.
References: (1) O. Bahar et al. Plant Pathol. 57:754, 2008. (2) R. Walcott et al. J. Phytopathol. 152:277, 2004. (3) R. Walcott et al. Plant Dis. 84:470, 2000. (4) B. Woudt et al. Phytopathology 99:S143, 2009.