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Epiphytic Bacteria and Yeasts on Apple Blossoms and Their Potential as Antagonists of Erwinia amylovora

May 2009 , Volume 99 , Number  5
Pages  571 - 581

P. Lawrence Pusey, Virginia O. Stockwell, and Mark Mazzola

First and third author: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Tree Fruit Research Laboratory, Wenatchee, WA 98801; and second author: Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, Oregon State University, Corvallis 97330.

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Accepted for publication 7 February 2009.

Apple blossoms were sampled for indigenous epiphytic populations of culturable microorganisms during different stages of bloom at two locations in central Washington State and one site in Corvallis, OR. Frequencies and population sizes of bacteria on stigmas of apple were lower in Washington than at Corvallis, where average relative humidity was higher and possibly favored greater colonization; however, bacteria at Corvallis were mainly pseudomonads, whereas those in Washington were diverse, composed of several genera. In Washington, yeast as well as bacteria were isolated from both stigmatic and hypanthial surfaces. Sampled blossoms were processed immediately to assess microbial populations, or after a 24-h incubation at 28°C and high relative humidity, which broadened the range of detectable taxa evaluated as potential antagonists. Identifications were based on fatty acid methyl ester profiles and rDNA sequence analyses. Yeasts or yeastlike organisms were detected at frequencies similar to or greater than bacteria, particularly in hypanthia. When microbial isolates were tested for their capacity to suppress Erwinia amylovora on stigmas of detached crab apple flowers, many were ineffective. The best antagonists were the bacteria Pantoea agglomerans and Pseudomonas spp. and a few yeasts identified as Cryptococcus spp. Further evaluation of these taxa on flowers could lead to the discovery of additional biocontrol agents for fire blight.

The American Phytopathological Society, 2009