R. A. Cating and
A. J. Palmateer, Tropical Research and Education Center, University of Florida, 18905 SW 280 St., Homestead 33031;
R. T. McMillan, Kerry's Nursery, Homestead, FL 33031; and
E. R. Dickstein, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Florida, Gainesville 32611
Tolumnia orchids are small epiphytic orchids grown for their attractive flowers. In the fall of 2008, approximately 100 Tolumnia orchids with soft, brown, macerated leaves were brought to the University of Florida Extension Plant Diagnostic Clinic in Homestead. Ten plants were randomly selected and bacteria were isolated from the margins of symptomatic tissues of each of the 10 plants on nutrient agar according to the method described by Schaad et al. (2). Four reference strains were used in all tests, including the molecular tests: Erwinia carotovora subsp. carotovora (obtained from J. Bartz, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Florida, Gainesville), E. chrysanthemi (ATCC No. 11662), Pectobacterium cypripedii (ATCC No. 29267), and Acidovorax avenae subsp. cattleyae (ATCC No. 10200). All 10 of the isolated bacteria were gram negative, grew at 37°C, degraded pectate in CVP (crystal violet pectate) medium, grew anaerobically, produced brown pigment on NGM (nutrient agar-glycerol-manganese chloride) medium (1), were sensitive to erythromycin, and produced phosphatase. Three of the strains were submitted for MIDI analysis (Sherlock version TSBA 4.10; Microbial Identification, Newark DE) (SIM 0.732 to 0.963), which identified them as E. chrysanthemi. A PCR assay was performed on the 16S rRNA gene with primers 27f and 1495r described by Weisburg et al. (3) from two of the isolates and a subsequent GenBank search showed 99% identity of the 1,508-bp sequence to that of Dickeya chrysanthemi (Accession No. FM946179) (formerly E. chrysanthemi). The sequences were deposited in GenBank (Accession Nos. GQ293897 and GQ293898). Pathogenicity was confirmed by injecting approximately 100 μl of a bacterial suspension at 1 × 108 CFU/ml into leaves of 10 Tolumnia orchid mericlones. Ten plants were also inoculated with water as controls. Plants were placed in a greenhouse at 29°C with 60 to 80% relative humidity. Within 24 h, soft rot symptoms appeared on all inoculated leaves. The water controls appeared normal. A Dickeya sp. was reisolated and identified using the above methods (biochemical tests and MIDI), fulfilling Koch's postulates. To our knowledge, this is the first report of a soft rot caused by a Dickeya sp. on Tolumnia orchids. Although 16S similarity and MIDI results suggest the isolated bacteria are D. chrysanthemi because of its close similarity with other Dickeya spp., these results are not conclusive. Further work should be conducted to confirm the identity of these isolates. Through correspondence with South Florida Tolumnia growers, it appears this disease has been a recurring problem, sometimes affecting international orchid shipments where plant losses have been in excess of 70%.
References: (1) Y. A. Lee and C. P. Yu. J. Microbiol. Methods 64:200, 2006. (2) N. W. Schaad et al. Erwinia soft rot group. Page 56 in: Laboratory Guide for Identification of Plant Pathogenic Bacteria. 3rd ed. N. W. Schaad et al., eds. American Phytopathological Society. St. Paul, MN, 2001. (3) W. G. Weisburg et al. J. Bacteriol. 173:697, 1991.