V. Parkunan, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Georgia, Tifton 31794;
S. Li, Crop Genetics Research Unit, USDA-ARS, Stoneville, MS 38776;
E. G. Fonsah, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, University of Georgia, Tifton 31794; and
P. Ji, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Georgia, Tifton 31794
Research efforts were initiated in 2003 to identify and introduce banana (Musa spp.) cultivars suitable for production in Georgia (1). Selected cultivars have been evaluated since 2009 in Tifton Banana Garden, Tifton, GA, comprising of cold hardy, short cycle, and ornamental types. In spring and summer of 2012, 7 out of 13 cultivars (African Red, Blue Torres Island, Cacambou, Chinese Cavendish, Novaria, Raja Puri, and Veinte Cohol) showed tiny, oval (0.5 to 1.0 mm long and 0.3 to 0.9 mm wide), light to dark brown spots on the adaxial surface of the leaves. Spots were more concentrated along the midrib than the rest of the leaf and occurred on all except the newly emerged leaves. Leaf spots did not expand much in size, but the numbers approximately doubled during the season. Disease incidences on the seven cultivars ranged from 10 to 63% (10% on Blue Torres Island and 63% on Novaria), with an average of 35% when a total of 52 plants were evaluated. Six cultivars including Belle, Ice Cream, Dwarf Namwah, Kandarian, Praying Hands, and Saba did not show any spots. Tissue from infected leaves of the seven cultivars were surface sterilized with 0.5% NaOCl, plated onto potato dextrose agar (PDA) media and incubated at 25°C in the dark for 5 days. The plates were then incubated at room temperature (23 ± 2°C) under a 12-hour photoperiod for 3 days. Grayish black colonies developed from all the samples, which were further identified as Alternaria spp. based on the dark, brown, obclavate to obpyriform catenulate conidia with longitudinal and transverse septa tapering to a prominent beak attached in chains on a simple and short conidiophore (2). Conidia were 23 to 73 μm long and 15 to 35 μm wide, with a beak length of 5 to 10 μm, and had 3 to 6 transverse and 0 to 5 longitudinal septa. Single spore cultures of four isolates from four different cultivars were obtained and genomic DNA was extracted and the internal transcribed spacer (ITS1-5.8S-ITS2) regions of rDNA (562 bp) were amplified and sequenced with primers ITS1 and ITS4. MegaBLAST analysis of the four sequences showed that they were 100% identical to two Alternaria alternata isolates (GQ916545 and GQ169766). ITS sequence of a representative isolate VCT1FT1 from cv. Veinte Cohol was submitted to GenBank (JX985742). Pathogenicity assay was conducted using 1-month-old banana plants (cv. Veinte Cohol) grown in pots under greenhouse conditions (25 to 27°C). Three plants were spray inoculated with the isolate VCT1FT1 (100 ml suspension per plant containing 105 spores per ml) and incubated under 100% humidity for 2 days and then kept in the greenhouse. Three plants sprayed with water were used as a control. Leaf spots identical to those observed in the field were developed in a week on the inoculated plants but not on the non-inoculated control. The fungus was reisolated from the inoculated plants and the identity was confirmed by morphological characteristics and ITS sequencing. To our knowledge, this is the first report of Alternaria leaf spot caused by A. alternata on banana in the United States. Occurrence of the disease on some banana cultivars in Georgia provides useful information to potential producers, and the cultivars that were observed to be resistant to the disease may be more suitable for production.
References: (1) E. G. Fonsah et al. J. Food Distrib. Res. 37:2, 2006. (2) E. G. Simmons. Alternaria: An identification manual. CBS Fungal Biodiversity Center, Utrecht, Netherlands, 2007.