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Xanthomonas Blight of Onion in South Africa

April 2001 , Volume 85 , Number  4
Pages  442.1 - 442.1

J. J. Serfontein , Plant Protection Research Institute, Agricultural Research Council, Private Bag X134, Pretoria 0001, South Africa

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Accepted for publication 18 December 2000.

During April 1999, a foliar blight of onion (Allium cepa L. ‘Granex 33’) was reported in an early commercial planting under center pivot irrigation in the Limpopo Valley of the Northern Province of South Africa. Regular fungicide sprays failed to inhibit the progress of the disease. Foliar symptoms started as water-soaked lesions that elongated and turned chlorotic followed by tissue collapse in some leaves. Leaves often collapsed at the point of infection. Bulb size was severely reduced and premature leaf death caused irregular maturation and bulb size in the field. The symptoms were similar to those of Xanthomonas blight, described on the same cultivar in Hawaii (1). Microscopic examination of hand cut sections trough lesion margins showed bacterial streaming. Isolation on semi-selective diagnostic milk Tween agar (2) yielded almost pure cultures of a typical xanthomonad. The mucoid, yellow pigmented bacterium was rod shaped, gram negative, catalase positive, oxidase negative, utilized glucose oxidatively, and was lypolytic (Tween 80), proteolytic (skimmed milk), and amolytic. Biolog GN Microplate profiles as read by the MicroLog database release 3.50 (Biolog, Hayward, CA) were similar to those of a pathovar (similarity indices of 0.29 to 0.71). Symptoms were successfully reproduced on glasshouse grown Granex 33 seedlings at the five-leaf stage by spray and syringe inoculations (1) and the pathogen reisolated as described above. Ten seedlings were used in the pathogenicity test, of which five served as controls. After inoculation, seedlings were covered overnight with plastic bags, after which bags were removed and seedlings grown in the greenhouse at 24 to 30°C and natural light until symptom development. Attempts to isolate the pathogen from the seed lot used to plant the affected field were unsuccessful. The disease re-occurred in early plantings of Granex 33 on the same farm in April 2000 toward the end of an unusually wet summer rainy season. Damage caused by the disease was so severe in one early planting that it was plowed under. High temperatures and humid conditions combined with overhead irrigation could have enhanced disease development and spread during the early growth of the crop. No further spread was observed during cooler and drier weather later in the season.

References: (1) A. M. Alvarez et al. Phytopathology 68:1132, 1978. (2) T. Goszczynska and J. J. Serfontein. J. Microbiol. Methods 32:65, 1998.

© 2001 The American Phytopathological Society