In the fall of 1997, 1998, and 2000, a leaf spot disease of escarole (Cichorium endivia L.) was widespread among commercial plantings in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA), south and east of Lake Okeechobee, FL. Symptoms consisted of dry, dark gray-to-black lesions that expanded to ≈4 cm in diameter. Concentric rings were often observed in mature lesions. Growers and scouts in the area consistently identified this disease as Alternaria leaf spot, because the symptoms closely resembled Alternaria leaf spots seen on a number of other vegetables. Prolific bacterial streaming occurred when cut portions of lesions were observed microscopically. A fluorescent bacterium was consistently isolated when a sterile inoculation needle was pushed through lesions. Eight bacterial strains were isolated, restreaked to obtain pure cultures, and characterized. All strains were aerobic, gram-negative rods that were oxidase positive and arginine dihydrolase negative. Negative reactions were recorded for levan formation and rotting of potato slices. All strains utilized glucose, mannitol, and m-tartrate and were negative for sucrose, sorbitol, benzoate, d-arabinose, l-rhamnose, and cellobiose. Results for utilization of D-aspartate were variable. Based on these results, the causal agent of bacterial leaf spot of escarole was identified as Pseudomonas cichorii. Greenhouse-grown plants of escarole, cv. Full Heart, and Cos lettuce, cv. Tall Guzmaine, were mistinoculated with a suspension (107 CFU/ml) of each test strain from escarole and P. cichorii strain Pc28, originally isolated from celery (1). Plants were bagged for 3 days after inoculation. Symptoms characteristic of this disease were evident on escarole inoculated with all test strains and Pc28 6 days after inoculation. Pure cultures of P. cichorii were recovered from lesions on King's B medium. Three test strains produced mild leaf spot symptoms in Cos lettuce, but the symptoms were distinctly different from those associated with the common bacterial leaf spot of lettuce in Florida caused by Xanthomonas campestris pv. vitians (2). To our knowledge, this is the first report of P. cichorii causing this unusual target spot symptom on escarole in the EAA.
References: (1) K. Pernezny et al. Plant Dis. 78:917, 1994. (2) K. Pernezny et al. Plant Dis. 79:359, 1995.