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First Report of a New Disease of Onion in Georgia Caused by a Nonfluorescent Pseudomonas Species

February 2012 , Volume 96 , Number  2
Pages  285.3 - 285.3

R. Gitaitis, S. Mullis, K. Lewis, D. Langston, A. K. Watson, and H. Sanders, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Georgia, Tifton 31793; R. Torrance, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Georgia, Tattnall County 30453; J. B. Jones, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Florida, Gainesville 32611; and C. Nischwitz, Department of Biology, Utah State University, Logan 84322

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Accepted for publication 11 October 2011.

Since 2007, a new disease of onion (Allium cepa) called yellow bud has been a problem in Georgia. Emerging leaves display intense chlorosis and older leaves exhibit extensive leaf blight. Yield reductions can be severe due to stand loss and reduced bulb size. Symptomatic plants are also more prone to freeze damage. The suspected causal agent is a slow-growing, white bacterium isolated onto nutrient agar (NA) by streak isolation. The bacterium grew more vigorously on NA supplemented with 0.5% yeast extract (NA+). Six strains of the bacterium all had gram-negative, rod-shaped cells and were strict aerobes. The strains produced levan, were negative for oxidase, potato rot, and arginine dihydrolase, and produced a hypersensitive reaction in tobacco. These are all characteristics of Pseudomonas group Ia as outlined by Lelliott et al. (2) and differ from characteristics of known Pseudomonas pathogens of onion such as P. aeruginosa, P. marginalis, and P. viridiflava that belong to groups Va, IVa, and II, respectively. The yellow bud bacterial strains were also nonfluorescent on King's medium B and were ice nucleation active. Universal primers PA16SF and PA16SR (ATCCTGGCTCAGATTGAACG and TTCCCCTACGGTTACCTTGTT) were used to amplify the 16S rRNA gene. The resulting consensus nucleotide sequence (GenBank Accession No. JF939841) of the six isolates matched those strains of P. syringae pv. atropurpurea, P. syringae pv. maculicola, P. syringae pv. porri, and P. amygdali (96 to 98% similarity). Primers 1 and 2 (GGCGCTCCCTCGCACTT and GGTATTGGCGGGGGTGC) were used to amplify the coronafacate ligase (cfl) gene. The resulting consensus nucleotide sequence for the six isolates (GenBank Accession No. JF939842) matched the cfl gene from P. syringae pv. tomato, P. syringae pv. morsprunorum, P. syrinage pv. aesculi, and P. syringae pv. glycinea (97 to 99% similarity). Representative strains had 0.95 to 0.99% similarity to P. syringae pv. coronafaciens using Biolog (Biolog, Hayward, CA), and 0.72 to 0.96% similarity to P. syringaepv. tomato using fatty acid analysis (MIDI Inc., Newark, DE). For each of eight representative yellow bud strains, 10 greenhouse-grown onion seedlings of cv. Pegasus were inoculated on one leaf. Bacteria grown on NA+ were suspended in sterile tap water and adjusted to ~1 × 108 CFU/ml. With a hypodermic syringe and needle, 1.0 ml of inoculum was injected in to the hollow cavity of an emerging onion leaf. Chlorosis developed on inoculated leaves in 5 days and was identical to that observed with natural infections. All inoculated plants died within 14 days, confirming pathogenicity. Bacteria with characteristics described above were reisolated from symptomatic leaves. Ten control plants inoculated with sterile water remained asymptomatic. Based on the methods listed above, the yellow bud bacterium was identified as P. syringae, but pathovar designation or genomospecies (1) could not be determined because results varied among the different methods tested. The disease has been spreading throughout the Vidalia onion-growing region since it was first observed. There is significant potential for the disease to become more widespread since it also has been observed in direct-seeded, onion transplant beds.

References: (1) J. P. Euzéby. List of Prokaryotic Names with Standing in Nomenclature-Genus Pseudomonas. Online publication. Retrieved from, 2010. (2) R. A. Lelliott et al. J. Appl. Bact. 29:470, 1966.

© 2012 The American Phytopathological Society