Volkamer lemon (Citrus volkameriana Ten. & Pasq., Rutaceae family) is the most commonly used rootstock for some ornamental citrus (oval kumquat and calamondin), improving the aesthetic quality of the plants and their marketable value. During the winter of 2011, symptoms of stem blight were observed on approximately 10% of 12,000 1-year-old potted C. volkameriana seedlings grown in different blocks in a commercial nursery near Catania (eastern Sicily, Italy). In the same nursery, only 1% of 15,000 older seedlings (2-year-old) showed disease symptoms. Initial symptoms included gray lesions on stems and occasionally on twigs. Later, buff lesions and gum exude appeared. Symptomatic stems and twigs were usually girdled and killed. In the lesions, irregular, dark gray sclerotia (1.0 to 5 × 1.0 to 7.0 mm, average 2.5 × 3.9 mm) were produced. In high relative humidity, cottony, white mycelia on the bark surface of infected tissues were also observed. Isolations were performed by transferring approximately 300 fragments of symptomatic tissues from 15 C volkameriana seedlings, surface-sterilized with 1% NaClO for 1 min, on potato dextrose agar (PDA) amended with 100 mg/liter of streptomycin sulfate. Sclerotinia sclerotiorum (Lib.) de Bary was recovered from all infected plants. Colony type, morphology, and dimensions of sclerotia were examined on PDA at 22 ± 1°C after 10 days in the dark. Sclerotia produced on PDA measured 2.0 to 7.0 × 1.5 to 4.0 mm (average 5.6 × 2.6 mm). DNA isolation was performed with the DNA Purification Kit (Puragene-Gentra, Minneapolis, MN) following the manufacturer's instructions. Amplification and sequencing of the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region of rDNA was performed with primers ITS1/ITS4 (2). BLAST analysis of the 550-bp segment showed a 98% homology with S. sclerotiorum strain ms85 (GenBank Accession No HQ833450.1), thus confirming identification based on morphology. Koch's postulates were fulfilled by pathogenicity tests carried out on 20 1-year-old potted C. volkameriana seedlings. Each seedling was inoculated with five mycelial agar plugs (6 mm in diameter) and five sclerotia from the edge of 10-day-old colonies on PDA and placed in wounds made with a sterile blade in the bark of stem and twigs. Inoculated wounds (10 for each plant) were wrapped with Parafilm. The same number of control plants were wounded and inoculated with sterile PDA plugs. All inoculated plants were incubated in a growth chamber at 22°C with 80 to 90% relative humidity for 14 days. Blight symptoms and lesions on the stem and twigs identical to those observed in the nursery developed on all plants with both types of inoculum. Noninoculated control plants remained symptomless. S. sclerotiorum was reisolated from all symptomatic tissues and identified by morphology as previously described, completing Koch's postulates. To our knowledge, this is the first report of S. sclerotiorum stem and twig blight on C. volkameriana. Worldwide, Sclerotinia stem and twig blight is considered a minor disease on citrus (1), but this evidence suggests that in eastern Sicily, S. sclerotiorum may be an important pathogen of young C. volkameriana seedlings in nurseries.
References: (1) J. A. Menge. Page 35 in: Compendium of Citrus Diseases. 2nd ed. The American Phytopathological Society, St. Paul, MN, 2000. (2) T. J.White et al. Page 315in: PCR Protocols: A Guide to Methods and Applications. M. A. Innis et al., eds. Academic Press, San Diego, 1990.