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Antibiosis Contributes to Biological Control of Fire Blight by Pantoea agglomerans Strain Eh252 in Orchards

November 2002 , Volume 92 , Number  11
Pages  1,202 - 1,209

V. O. Stockwell , K. B. Johnson , D. Sugar , and J. E. Loper

First and second authors: Oregon State University, Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, Corvallis 97331; third author: Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center, Oregon State University, Medford 97502; and fourth author: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Horticultural Crops Research Laboratory, 3420 NW Orchard Avenue, Corvallis, OR 97330

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Accepted for publication 4 July 2002.

Fire blight, caused by Erwinia amylovora, is the most serious bacterial disease of pear and apple trees. Biological control with strains of Pantoea agglomerans (syn. Erwinia herbicola) may provide an effective disease management strategy for fire blight. Most strains of P. agglomerans evaluated for suppression of fire blight produce compounds that inhibit the growth of E. amylovora in culture. The role of these inhibitory compounds in fire blight suppression in orchard environments has not been studied. In seven field trials in Oregon, we compared the population dynamics and disease suppression with P. agglomerans Eh252, a strain that produces a single antibiotic, with its near-isogenic antibiotic-deficient derivative, strain 10:12. Water or suspensions of Eh252 or 10:12 (1 × 108 CFU/ml) were applied at 30 and 70% bloom to pear or apple trees. Aqueous suspensions of freeze-dried cells of E. amylovora (3 × 105 CFU/ml) were applied at full bloom. Additional trees were treated with streptomycin or oxytetracycline at 30 and 70% bloom and in some experiments, 1 day after application of the pathogen. Population sizes of Eh252 or 10:12 on pear blossoms were estimated by spreading dilutions of blossom washes on culture media. Average population sizes of Eh252 and 10:12 on blossoms ranged from 105 to 107 CFU, and in five of six trials, the relative area under the population curve of Eh252 was not significantly different than that of its derivative 10:12. Both Eh252 and 10:12 reduced the growth of the pathogen on blossoms compared with inoculated water-treated controls. Eh252 significantly decreased the incidence of fire blight in six of seven field trials compared with the incidence on water-treated trees, and 10:12 similarly reduced the incidence of fire blight in four of seven trials. In three of seven field trials, trees treated with Eh252 had a significantly lower incidence of fire blight compared with trees treated 3 with 10:12. Overall,3 Eh252 reduced the incidence of fire blight by 55 ± 8%, 10:12 by 30 ± 6%, streptomycin by 75 ± 4%, and oxytetracycline by 16 ± 14%. The effectiveness of strain 10:12 compared with water treatment indicates that other mechanisms (e.g., competitive exclusion or habitat modification) also contribute to disease suppression by P. agglomerans. The increased suppression of fire blight by the parental strain Eh252 compared with the antibiotic-deficient mutant 10:12 indicates that antibiosis is an important mechanism of biological control of fire blight.

Additional keywords: herbicolin, Malus, microcin, pantocin, pome fruit, Pyrus.

The American Phytopathological Society, 2002