United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Tree Fruit Research Laboratory, 1104 N. Western Avenue, Wenatchee, WA 98801
Under warm, dry conditions, Erwinia amylovora can become established in relatively high populations on apple (Malus domestica) or pear (Pyrus communis) flower stigmas, and subsequent wet conditions facilitate its movement to the flower hypanthium where infection generally is initiated through the nectarthodes. Research on biological control of fire blight has focused mainly on the flower stigma, and knowledge is lacking regarding the effect of nectar on microbial antagonists in the flower hypanthium. The biocontrol agents Pseudomonas fluorescens strain A506 and Pantoea agglomerans strain C9-1 were cultured in a basal liquid medium with various concentrations (0 to 50% total sugar) of sucrose or synthetic nectar (sucrose/glucose/fructose, 2:1:1). Strain A506 showed less growth and lower survival than strain C9-1 at high sugar levels, and A506 was less effective than C9-1 as a preemptive antagonist of E. amylovora in high-sugar media. Both antagonist strains were less tolerant to high sugar levels than E. amylovora (strain Ea153). The same bacteria were cultured in a medium with 25% total sugar consisting of various proportions of sucrose, glucose, and fructose, and growth response correlated strongly with solute potential. When 28 microbial strains were cultured in synthetic nectar (25% total sugar) and ranked based on growth, strains clustered according to taxonomic group. Yeasts were most osmotolerant, followed by strains of E. amylovora, Pantoea agglomerans, Bacillus spp., and Pseudomonas spp. Further studies done in planta are necessary to determine whether osmotolerance of antagonists is advantageous in the biological control of fire blight.