First and second authors: Department of Plant Pathology, University of Georgia, Athens 30602; and third author: Department of Life and Earth Sciences, Otterbein College, Westerville, OH 43081
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Accepted for publication 8 June 2002.
Monilinia vaccinii-corymbosi infects open blueberry flowers via the gynoecial pathway, leading to mummification of the developing fruit. To determine the effect of flower age on infection, stigmata were inoculated with conidia of M. vaccinii-corymbosi between 0 and 5 days after anthesis, fungal growth rates through the stylar canal were measured in detached flowers in the laboratory, and fruit disease incidence was determined in plants grown in the greenhouse. Hyphal growth rates were greatest in flowers inoculated on the day of anthesis, declined linearly with increasing flower age at inoculation (r = 0.921; P < 0.0001; n = 12), and were unaffected by the presence or absence of pollen applied at the time of inoculation. In greenhouse-grown plants, the percentage of infected fruit decreased exponentially with increasing flower age at inoculation (R = 0.878; P = 0.0057; n = 10), with disease incidence ranging from 76.4% for flowers inoculated on the day of anthesis to 15.5% for those inoculated 4 days later. Fruit disease incidence in the greenhouse was linearly correlated with hyphal growth rates in detached flowers (r = 0.985; P < 0.0001; n = 9), justifying the use of detached flowers when investigating gynoecial infection by M. vaccinii-corymbosi. In separate experiments, the effects of timing and sequence of pollination and inoculation on hyphal growth rates through the stylar canal and on disease incidence were investigated. Application of pollen to detached flowers 1 or 2 days before inoculation reduced hyphal growth rates by between 14.0 and 42.9% compared with flowers that received pollen and conidia simultaneously. Similarly, reductions in fruit disease incidence by between 9.5 and 18.3% were observed on greenhouse-grown plants for pollination-to-inoculation intervals ranging from 1 to 4 days. These results document that newly opened flowers are most susceptible to infection by M. vaccinii-corymbosi and that fruit disease incidence is reduced if pollination occurs at least 1 day before inoculation. Strategies that lead to early pollination of newly opened flowers may be useful for managing mummy berry disease in the field.
© 2002 The American Phytopathological Society