Lemon (Citrus lemon (L.) Burm. f.) is an important fruit crop cultivated worldwide, and is grown practically in every state in India (3). During a survey conducted in 2013, a few small trees in a lemon orchard near Mysore city (Karnataka) (12°19.629′ N, 76°31.892′ E) were found affected by dieback disease. Approximately 10 to 20% of trees were affected as young shoots and branches showed progressive death from the apical region downward. Different samples were collected and diagnosed via morphological methods. The fungus was consistently isolated from the infected branches when they were surface sanitized with 1.5% NaOCl and plated on potato dextrose agar (PDA). Plates were incubated at 26 ± 2°C for 7 days at 12/12 h alternating light and dark period. Fungal colonies were whitish with pale brown stripes having an uneven margin and pycnidia were fully embedded in the culture plate. No sexual state was observed. Pycnidia were globose, dark, 158 to 320 μm in diameter, and scattered throughout the mycelial growth. Both alpha and beta conidia were present within pycnidia. Alpha conidia were single celled (5.3 to 8.7 × 2.28 to 3.96 μm) (n = 50), bigittulate, hyaline, with one end blunt and other truncated. Beta conidia (24.8 to 29.49 × 0.9 to 1.4 μm) (n = 50) were single celled, filiform, with one end rounded and the other acute and curved. Based on the morphological and cultural features, the fungal pathogen was identified as Phomopsis citri H.S. Fawc. Pathogenicity test was conducted on nine healthy 2-year-old lemon plants via foliar application of a conidial suspension (3 × 106); plants were covered with polythene bags for 6 days and maintained in the greenhouse. Sterile distilled water inoculated plants (in triplicate) served as controls and were symptomless. Development of dieback symptoms was observed after 25 days post inoculation and the fungal pathogen was re-isolated from the inoculated lemon trees. The internal transcribed spacer region (ITS) of the isolated fungal genomic DNA was amplified using universal-primer pair ITS1/ITS4 and sequenced to confirm the species-level diagnosis (4). The sequence data of the 558-bp amplicon was deposited in GenBank (Accession No. KJ477016.1) and nBLAST search showed 99% homology with Diaporthe citri (teleomorph) strain 199.39 (KC343051.1). P. citri is known for its association with melanose disease of citrus in India, the United States, and abroad. P. citri also causes stem end rot of citrus, which leads to yield loss and reduction in fruit quality (1,2). Dieback disease is of serious concern for lemon growers as it affects the overall productivity level of the tree. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of P. citri causing dieback of lemon in India.
References: (1) I. H. Fischer et al. Sci. Agric. (Piracicaba). 66:210, 2009. (2) S. N. Mondal et al. Plant Dis. 91:387, 2007. (3) S. P. Raychaudhuri. Proc. Int. Soc. Citriculture 1:461, 1981. (4) T. J. White et al. Page 315 in: PCR Protocols: A Guide to Methods and Applications. Academic Press, San Diego, CA, 1990.
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