Laurel wilt disease is a newly described vascular disease of redbay (Persea borbonia (L.) Spreng.) and other members of the Lauraceae family in the southeastern United States. The disease, caused by the fungus Raffaelea lauricola and vectored by a nonnative redbay ambrosia beetle (Xyleborus glabratus Eichhoff), was first detected in Georgia in 2003 (1). Laurel wilt has caused extensive mortality of native redbay in Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, and recently, Mississippi. The avocado, Persea americana, is in the Lauraceae family and has been shown to be susceptible to the laurel wilt pathogen in Florida (3). The potential spread of this pathogen into California is of concern to the commercial avocado industry. During a survey in 2010 in a Temecula, CA avocado orchard with a history of root rot, an avocado (cv. Hass) tree with a diameter at breast height (DBH) of 45 cm was found to be showing typical laurel wilt disease symptoms. The crown was approximately 80% declined and exhibited dead branches without leaves. Black-to-brown discolored sapwood under the bark and many ambrosia beetle exit holes within 1 to 1.5 m up the bole were also observed. A Raffaelea sp. was consistently isolated from symptomatic branch tissue (from two different branches) plated onto cycloheximide-streptomycin malt agar (2) and incubated at room temperature for 2 weeks. Small subunit (18S) sequences of rDNA (approximately 1,150 bp) of three Raffaelea isolates were amplified using primers NS1 and NS4 (4) and deposited into GenBank under Accession Nos. JF327799, JF327800, and JF327801. A BLASTn search of all three sequences revealed high homology (98, 99, and 98% respectively) to an accession of R. canadensis associated with a species of ambrosia beetle (GenBank Accession No. AY858665). Pathogenicity testing was conducted by pipetting 50 μl of a 105 conidia per ml suspension of each of two isolates (UCR1080 and UCR1081) into five 2-mm-diameter holes on each of two avocado (cv. Hass) trees (10 to 15 cm DBH). Isolate UCR1080 was inoculated into three holes on Tree 1 and two holes on Tree 2. Isolate UCR1081 was inoculated into two holes on Tree 1 and three holes on Tree 2. Sterile water was used as a control in five 2-mm-diameter holes on each tree. Holes were drilled to the cambium within 1 to 2 m up the bole using a 0.157-cm electric drill. Four months later, phloem tissue was peeled back, lesion lengths were measured, and pieces of necrotic tissue were cultured for completion of Koch's postulates. R. canadensis was consistently reisolated from necrotic tissue but not from control treatments. To our knowledge, this is the first report of R. canadensis associated with wilt on avocado in California. R. canadensis is closely related to R. lauricola, however, its impact on the California avocado industry is unknown at this time.
References: (1) S. W. Fraedrich et al. Plant Dis. 92:215, 2008. (2) T. C. Harrington et al. Mycotaxon 111:337, 2010. (3) A. E. Mayfield et al. Plant Dis. 92:976, 2008. (4) T. J. White et al. Page 315 in: PCR Protocols: A Guide to Methods and Applications. M. A. Innis et al., eds. Academic Press, San Diego, 1990.