Several different leaf scorch symptomatologies occur on the foliage of pecan (Carya illinoinensis). The causes of these different scorch symptoms have been associated with environmental stresses, nutritional imbalances, mites, and pathogens. One type of leaf scorch is characterized by necrosis beginning at the tips or margins of the leaflets and progressing toward the midrib and base of the leaflets. The most distinguishing feature of this type of leaf scorch is a dark brown, black, or purplish band of tissue at the interface of the necrotic and green leaflet tissue. This band does not occur on all affected leaflets, but is a consistent feature with this symptomatology. Leaflets with this leaf scorch usually abscise before the entire leaflet becomes necrotic. Affected leaflets will abscise from a compound leaf, while leaflets without symptoms remain on the rachis. When this scorch is severe, the entire leaf including the rachis may abscise. The symptoms are often confined to one area of the tree. Symptoms of this disease appear as early as June but often begin in July. Incidence and severity increase through the remainder of summer and into fall. Over the past 25 years, several different genera of fungi have been reported as being associated with this leaf scorch (2). The phenomenon was named fungal leaf scorch (FLS) because of the association with fungi and the observation that some fungicides reduced the severity of leaf scorch. Genera of fungi implicated in the development of FLS were Pestalotia, Epicoccum, Curvularia, and Fusarium. Recent work has indicated that the disease could be caused by a Phomopsis sp. or Glomerella cingulata or both (1). The symptoms and epidemiology of the FLS are similar to other leaf scorch diseases of hardwood caused by the fastidious xylem-limited bacterium Xylella fastidiosa. A commercial enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (Agdia, Elkhart, IN) was used to screen for this organism in association with FLS. Assays were conducted by extracting from a composite sample of 9 to 12 sections (approximately 3 cm long) taken from 3 to 4 rachises of each tree tested. Positive reaction for the presence of X. fastidiosa in rachises was recorded from 10 of 10 trees with symptoms of FLS on the Cape Fear cultivar. One of two trees was positive from Cape Fear leaves without symptoms. Symptomless foliage from two less susceptible cultivars, Stuart (two trees) and Sumner (one tree), assayed negative for the bacterium. The association of X. fastidiosa with symptoms of FLS provides evidence that this organism is involved in the etiology of pecan leaf scorch; however, further work is needed to determine the exact etiology.
References: (1). A. J. Latham et al. Plant Dis. 79:182, 1995. (2) R. H. Littrell and R. E. Worley. Phytopathology 62:805, 1972.