DISTEF, Sezione Patologia Vegetale, University of Catania, Via Valdisavoia 5, 95123 Catania, Italy
DOFATA Sezione Ortofloricoltura, Via Valdisavoia 5, 95123 Catania, Italy
In December 1999, widespread dieback of eggplant (Solanum melongena L., hybrid Mission Bell), grafted onto the interspecific hybrid Beaufort (Lycopersicon esculentum × Lycopersicon hirsutum) and on tomato hybrid Energy, was observed during four rootstock evaluation trials in greenhouses in Sicily, Italy. Dark brown to black, firm but sometimes fissured lesions, 1 to 20 cm long, were observed just above the grafting point. Water-soaked, soft, dark green lesions that turned brown with age were observed on the upper stem. Extensive discoloration of vascular tissues and, in some cases, breakdown of the pith and stem hollowness occurred. Eggplant seedlings, present in the same experimental trials, did not show any symptoms. From symptomatic tissues, numerous bacterial colonies were obtained on nutrient dextrose agar. Bacteria from purified colonies were gram-negative, oxidase-negative, facultatively anaerobic pectolitic on crystal violet pectate agar, which is nonfluorescent on King's B medium. On the basis of biochemical and physiological tests (1), seven of 10 isolates were identified as Pectobacterium carotovorum subsp. carotovorum (Jones 1901) Hauben et al. 1999, comb. nov. (2), and the remaining three were identified as P. carotovorum subsp. atrosepticum (van Hall 1902) Hauben et al. 1999, comb. nov. (2). Four days after prick inoculation of the stems of eggplant and tomato plants, all isolates caused extensive collapse of stems and internal brown discoloration and hollowness, respectively. In a second pathogenicity test, basil leaves of grafted eggplants and eggplant seedlings were either removed or left intact. These plants were then sprayed with bacterial suspensions (108 CFU/ml) of one isolate of each pathogen. Plants were held at 100% relative humidity or in a low-moisture incubator. After 6 days incubation, stem lesions and vascular discoloration, typical of symptoms observed in greenhouses, were observed on plants held at 100% relative humidity. No symptoms were observed in unwounded plants or plants maintained in low relative humidity. Similar symptoms on grafted eggplant have been attributed to physiological disorders (3). To our knowledge, only P. carotovorum subsp. carotovorum has been reported on eggplant as causing fruit rot.
References: (1) N. W. Schaad, ed. 1988. Laboratory Guide for Identification of Plant Pathogenic Bacteria, 2nd ed. American Phytopathological Society, St. Paul, MN. (2) L. Hauben et al. Int. J. Syst. Bacteriol. 41:582, 1999. (3) G. Ginoux and H. Laterrot. Rev. Horticole (Paris) 321:49, 1991.