In South Korea, the culture, production, and consumption of blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) have increased rapidly over the past 10 years. In June and July 2012, blueberry plants with leaf spots (~10% of disease incidence) were sampled from a blueberry orchard in Jinju, South Korea. Leaf symptoms included small (1 to 5 mm in diameter) brown spots that were circular to irregular in shape. The spots expanded and fused into irregularly shaped, large lesions with distinct dark, brownish-red borders. The leaves with severe infection dropped early. A fungus was recovered consistently from sections of surface-disinfested (1% NaOCl) symptomatic leaf tissue after transfer onto water agar and sub-culture on PDA at 25°C. Fungal colonies were dark olive and produced loose, aerial hyphae on the culture surfaces. Conidia, which had 3 to 6 transverse septa, 1 to 2 longitudinal septa, and sometimes also a few oblique septa, were pale brown to golden brown, ellipsoid to ovoid, obclavate to obpyriform, and 16 to 42 × 7 to 16 μm (n = 50). Conidiophores were pale to mid-brown, solitary or fasciculate, and 28 to 116 × 3 to 5 μm (n = 50). The species was placed in the Alternaria alternata group (1). To confirm the identity of the fungus, the complete internal transcribed spacer (ITS) rDNA region of a representative isolate, AAVC-01, was amplified using ITS1 and ITS4 primers (2). The DNA products were cloned into the pGEM-T Easy vector (Promega, Madison, WI) and the resulting pOR13 plasmid was sequenced using universal primers. The resulting 570-bp sequence was deposited in GenBank (Accession No. KJ636460). Comparison of ITS rDNA sequences with other Alternaria spp. using ClustalX showed ≥99% similarity with the sequences of A. alternata causing blight on Jatropha curcas (JQ660842) from Mexico and Cajannus cajan (JQ074093) from India, citrus black rot (AF404664) from South Africa, and other Alternaria species, including A. tenuissima (WAC13639) (3), A. lini (Y17071), and A. longipes (AF267137). Two base substitutions, C to T at positions 345 and 426, were found in the 570-bp amplicon. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that the present Alternaria sp. infecting blueberry grouped separately from A. tenuissima and A. alternata reported from other hosts. A representative isolate of the pathogen was used to inoculate V. corymbosum Northland leaves for pathogenicity testing. A conidial suspension (2 × 104 conidia/ml) from a single spore culture and 0.025% Tween was spot inoculated onto 30 leaves, ranging from recently emerged to oldest, of 2-year-old V. corymbosum Northland plants. Ten leaves were treated with sterilized distilled water and 0.025% Tween as a control. The plants were kept in a moist chamber with >90% relative humidity at 25°C for 48 h and then moved to a greenhouse. After 15 days, leaf spot symptoms similar to those observed in the field developed on the inoculated leaves, whereas the control plants remained asymptomatic. The causal fungus was re-isolated from the lesions of the inoculated plants to fulfill Koch's postulates. To our knowledge, this is the first report of Alternaria sp. on V. corymbosum in South Korea.
References: (1) E. G. Simmons. Page 1797 in: Alternaria: An Identification Manual. CBS Fungal Biodiversity Centre, Utrecht, The Netherlands, 2007. (2) T. J. White et al. Page 315 in: PCR Protocols: A Guide to Methods and Applications. Academic Press, San Diego, 1990. (3) M. P. You et al. Plant Dis. 98:423, 2014.