This study was conducted to identify the causal organism of bark dieback disease of highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L.) observed in Korea. Blueberry, a woody plant that is native to North America, belongs to the family Ericaceae and genus Vaccinium. Of the 400 species of blueberry in the world, most are distributed in the tropics of Malaysia and Southeast Asia. Highbush blueberry is abundantly grown in Canada and the United States and has become a popular commercial crop in Korea for products such as jam, wine, and sauce. Bark dieback disease of blueberry was found in Sunchang (<5% incidence), Jeollabuk-do, Korea in July 2009. Typical symptoms of the disease were blight and dieback on the stems with lesions extending along entire branches. Morphological examination revealed that the perithecia were of the globose type with a nipple, 155 to 490 (374.6) μm, and brown on the dead bark. Asci were bitunicate and clavate or cylindrical with dimensions of 63 to 125 × 16 to 20 μm and containing eight ascospores. Ascospores were of the long ovoid type with dimensions of 13.2 to 23.7 (17.98) × 25.4 to 41.1 (33.21) μm. From extracted genomic DNA, the internal transcribed spacer (ITS)-5.8S ribosomal DNA region was amplified with universal primers ITS1 (5′-TCCGTAGGTGAACCTGCGG-3′) and ITS4 (5′-TCCTCCGCTTATTGATATGC-3′). A BLAST search of GenBank with the ITS sequence revealed that the Sunchang isolate (GenBank Accession No. HQ384217) had 99 to 100% sequence identity with the following Botryosphaeria dothidea accessions: FJ517657, AJ938005, FJ478129, FJ171723, and AJ938004. Phylogenetic analysis with the Sunchang isolate, B. dothidea strains, and related species revealed that the B. dothidea isolate and strains comprised a monophyletic group distinguished from other Botryosphaeria spp. including B. ribis, B. parva, B. protearum, B. lutea, B. australis, B. rhodina, B. obtuse, and B. stevensii (2). On the basis of morphological and molecular results, the isolate was identified as B. dothidea (Moug.) Ces. & De Not. A culture of B. dothidea isolate was grown on potato dextrose agar (PDA) for 10 days. A 5-mm plug was inoculated into stem wounds created with a No. 2 cork borer in 20 2-year-old disease-free blueberry plants grown in a greenhouse. Six plants inoculated with only PDA plugs served as noninoculated controls. The wounds were covered with Parafilm. After 3 months, the Parafilm was removed and black lesions were observed at the fungal inoculation sites, while no lesion was observed on the control plants. To complete Koch's postulates, the fungus was reisolated from the lesions and confirmed to be B. Dothidea (1). There is an urgent need to determine the spread of this disease in Korea, estimate the losses, and develop methods for reducing damage through biological and eco-friendly cultural control methods.
References: (1) D. Jurc et al. Plant Pathol. 55:299, 2006. (2) B. Slippers et al. Mycologia 96:83, 2004.