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First Report of Botryosphaeria obtusa as Causal Agent of Olive Tree Branch Dieback in Tunisia

June 2012 , Volume 96 , Number  6
Pages  905.2 - 905.2

M. Chattaoui, A. Rhouma, and M. Msallem, Laboratory for Improvement and Protection of Olive Genetic Resources, Mahrajène City, BP 208, 1082 Tunis, Tunisia; and M. Pérez, J. Moral, and A. Trapero, Department of Agronomy, ETSIAM, University of Córdoba, Rabanales Campus, 14071-Córdoba, Spain

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Accepted for publication 12 March 2012.

A branch dieback of olive trees (Olea europaea L. cv. Manzanilla de Sevilla) was observed in 2010 in an orchard (50 ha), located in the Testour region of northern Tunisia. More than 50% of trees were severely damaged by the disease. Symptomatic trees presented dead branches and wilted leaves, which remained attached to the shoots, and the affected tissues appeared abnormally dark compared with the inner bark of healthy branches. Numerous pycnidia were observed on the surface of the infected branches. For diagnosis, symptomatic stems were collected and small pieces of discolored tissues were excised from lesion margins, surface sterilized in 0.5% sodium hypochlorite for 1 min, rinsed and dried on sterilized filter paper, then placed on acidified Difco potato dextrose agar plates (APDA; 2.5 ml of 25% lactic acid per liter). Plates were incubated at 25°C for 4 to 5 days, and hyphal tips from developing fungal colonies were transferred to PDA and placed under fluorescent light (12 h/day). A fast-growing, pycnidia-producing fungus was consistently isolated, with conidia exuding onto the agar surface of 10-day-old cultures. On the basis of colony characteristics, isolates were identified as Botryosphaeria obtusa (3). Conidia were large, dark brown, aseptate, rounded at both ends or truncate at base, and 25 to 26.8 × 10.5 to 12.03 μm. Pathogenicity tests were performed on detached stems of cv. Manzanilla by 7-mm diameter mycelial plugs cut from actively growing cultures of the fungus. Stems (30 cm length) were cleaned, surface sterilized with sodium hypochlorite (0.25% for 2 min), and wounded with a sterilized scalpel. Mycelial disks were placed over wounds and wrapped with Parafilm to prevent desiccation. Control stems were mock inoculated with sterile agar plugs. Inoculated and control stems were placed in polyethylene boxes and incubated at 25°C. After 45 days, inoculated stems developed brown discoloration, and small dark pycnidia appeared on stem surfaces. Controls remained healthy. Koch's postulates were verified by isolating the fungus from symptomatic stems. To confirm the identification, DNA of one isolate was extracted and the fungal primers ITS1 and ITS4 (4) were used to amplify the internal transcribed spacer region of rDNA. Purified amplicons were sequenced and a BLAST search of the GenBank database revealed 99% homology with B. obtusa isolate HO166525.1. The anamorph of the fungus, Diplodia seriata, has been recognized as the cause of fruit rot of olive (1) and branch canker or dieback (2). To our knowledge, this is the first report of a canker disease of olive trees caused by B. obtusa in Tunisia.

References: (1) J. Moral et al. Plant Dis. 92:311, 2008. (2) J. Moral et al. Phytopathology 100:1340, 2010. (3) A. Taylor et al. Australas. Plant Pathol. 34:187, 2005. (4) T. J. White et al. Page 315 in: PCR Protocols: A Guide to Methods and Applications. Academic Press, San Diego, CA, 1990.

© 2012 The American Phytopathological Society