Department of Plant Pathology & Crop Physiology, Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, Baton Rouge 70803-1720
Bacterial root and stem rot of sweetpotato (Ipomoea batatas (L.) Lam.) was first fully characterized in the U.S. in 1977 (2). It was thought to be caused exclusively by Erwinia chrysanthemi. Although a previous report described sweetpotato as a host for E. carotovora subsp. carotovora, based on artificial inoculations, others have reported that neither E. carotovora subsp. carotovora nor E. carotovora subsp. atroseptica decay sweetpotato storage roots (1). In October 1995, storage roots of sweetpotato cv. Beauregard were received from St. Landry Parish, LA, that displayed typical bacterial root rot. Isolations from these roots yielded bacteria that showed a similarity of 0.945 to E. carotovora subsp. carotovora with the Biolog GN Bacterial Identification System (version 3.50). This isolate (Ecc-LH) also differed from isolates of E. chrysanthemi (Ech) from sweetpotato and other hosts in that it was insensitive to erythromycin, did not produce phosphatase or lecithinase, and did not produce gas from glucose. Ecc-LH differed from known strains of E. carotovora subsp. atroseptica in that it did not produce reducing substances from sucrose or acid from palatinose. When Beauregard storage roots were inoculated by inserting micropipette tips containing 50 μl of 1.0 × 108 CFU/ml, both Ecc-LH and Ech-48 produced typical bacterial root rot symptoms. However, when they were compared by infectivity titrations at 28 to 32°C, Ecc-LH was less virulent than Ech-48. Ecc-LH had an ED50 of approximately 1.0 × 106 CFU/ml and did not cause appreciable disease below inoculum concentrations of 1.0 × 105, whereas Ech-48 had an ED50 of approximately 1.0 × 108 and caused soft rot at the lowest concentration tested, 1.0 × 103. Similar disease incidence was observed in infectivity titrations at 22 to 24°C, but Ech-48 caused less severe soft rot. E. carotovora subsp. carotovora was reisolated from inoculated storage roots and its identity was reconfirmed by Biolog. When terminal vine cuttings of Beauregard were dipped in 1.0 × 108 CFU/ml and planted in a greenhouse, bacterial stem rot symptoms developed on plants inoculated with Ech-48 at about 4 weeks postinoculation, or when new growth began. However, no symptoms developed on plants inoculated with Ecc-LH. This is the first report of natural occurrence of E. carotovora subsp. carotovora causing bacterial root rot of sweetpotato in Louisiana. E. chrysanthemi remains the most important pathogen causing bacterial soft rot in sweetpotato since it is widely associated with sweetpotato, is more virulent on storage roots and also causes a stem rot. E. carotovora subsp. carotovora can cause root rot, but has been isolated in only one location to date, is less virulent on storage roots, and apparently does not cause stem rot on the predominant cultivar in U.S. sweetpotato production, Beauregard.
References: (1) C. A. Clark and J. W. Moyer. 1988. Compendium of Sweet Potato Diseases. American Phytopathological Society, St. Paul, MN. (2) N. W. Schaad and D. Brenner. Phytopathology 67:302, 1977.