Gonzalo A. Díaz, and
Bernardo A. Latorre, Facultad de Agronomía e Ingeniería Forestal, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Casilla 306-22, Santiago, Chile
Stem canker and dieback are important factors that limit the longevity and reduce the yield of blueberry (Vaccinium spp.) in Chile. In this study, species of Diaporthe associated with blueberry were isolated and identified. The internal transcribed spacer (ITS) regions of ribosomal DNA of 30 isolates and the translation elongation factor 1-α (EF1-α) of 14 isolates were sequenced, analyzed, and compared with their morphological and pathological characteristics. The molecular analysis of ITS sequences by alignment with those of ex-type strains deposited in GenBank and morphological characteristics allowed the identification of Diaporthe ambigua, D. australafricana, D. neotheicola, D. passiflorae, and Diaporthe sp. 1. However, morphology alone was insufficient to identify these species. The combined analysis of ITS and EF1-α gene sequences grouped the Chilean blueberry isolates in the same five groups obtained in the ITS analysis. Pathogenicity tests conducted with attached and detached blueberry shoots (<1 year old) and stems (1 to 2 years old) confirmed that isolates of these Diaporthe spp. were pathogenic. The symptoms were reproducible and consisted of necrotic reddish-brown cankers on blueberry shoots and stems. These isolates were capable of infecting blueberry fruit, causing a soft decay, suggesting that they were tissue nonspecific and were also pathogenic on shoots of apple, grapevine, and pear. D. australafricana was the most frequently isolated species and D. ambigua, D. australafricana, and D. passiflorae were highly virulent in shoots, stems, and fruit of blueberry. This study showed that at least four species of Diaporthe are primary pathogens, capable of causing stem canker symptoms on blueberry, and this is the first report of D. ambigua, D. neotheicola, and D. passiflorae attacking this host.