Extension Plant Pathologist, University of California, Davis, Kearney Agricultural Center
Farm Advisor, UCCE, Kern County
Postdoctoral Researcher, University of California, Davis
Associate Professor, Dept. of Plant Pathology, University of California, Riverside
A new leaf spot disease of almond (Prunus dulcis [Mill.] D. Webb) was observed in California in the late 1980s and was first associated with severe defoliation in the mid-1990s (1). Orchards in areas with frequent summer dews, high humidity, and little air movement sustained severe defoliation, resulting in yield losses often exceeding 50%. Symptoms occur only on leaf blades in late spring and summer. Lesions develop as small, circular, tan spots 1 to 3 mm in diameter that may enlarge to 5 to 20 mm in size. Semicircular lesions frequently develop along the leaf margins and tips. The centers of mature lesions become black with fungal sporulation. The fungi isolated from the margins of sporulating and non-sporulating lesions were identified as three species in the Alternaria alternata complex: A. alternata, A. arborescens, and A. tenuissima (2,3). Cultures grown in the dark on potato dextrose (PDA) or potato-carrot agar are grayish white to olivacious green in the former two species and dark gray and wooly in the latter species. On 5% PDA, cultures of all three species produced catenulate dictyospores that were granular to punctate (-verrucose), pale yellowish to brown or black, and had visible apical and basal pores. Conidial morphology depended on chain position; apical conidia ranged from ovoid to ellipsoid, whereas basal conidia were elliptical to obclavate. Average conidial dimensions of A. alternata and A. arborescens ranged from 20 to 28 × 8 to 10 μm. Conidia of A. alternata were produced in acropetal succession in branching chains on single, short suberect conidiophores. A. arborescens produced conidia similarly but mostly in dichotomously branching chains on short to long conidiophores. Average conidial dimensions of A. tenuissima ranged from 20 to 34 × 8 to 12 μm and they were produced in simple chains with one or two branches forming occasionally. In preliminary studies, the optimum temperature for mycelial growth on PDA for all three species ranged from 24 to 28°C. Fifty mature leaves on each of four 7- or 8-year-old almond cv. Butte trees were inoculated at 2- to 3-week intervals from mid-spring through summer in 1999 and 2000. Leaves were sprayed with aqueous suspensions containing 105 conidia per milliliter for one isolate each of A. alternata and A. arborescens and two isolates of A. tenuissima or with sterile distilled water. The shoots were covered for 72 h with plastic-lined brown paper bags containing wet paper towels. Leaves were examined for infection after 7 and 14 days. All isolates were pathogenic and produced non-sporulating lesions similar to those observed in natural infections. No symptoms were observed on noninoculated control plants. Disease incidence was low (<15%) until late June 1999 and July 2000. Inoculations in summer produced increasingly more infections, reaching incidences of 40 to 52% in September 1999 and 18 to 80% in August 2000.
References: (1) J. E. Adaskaveg. 1994. Pages 5--7 in Proceedings of the 22nd Annual Almond Industry Conference. 1994. (2) J. Rotem. 1994. The genus Alternaria. Biology, Epidemiology, and Pathogenicity. APS Press, St. Paul, MN. (3) E. G. Simmons. Mycotaxon 70:325--369, 1999.