Eric A. Carr,
Ali M. Zaid,
Jean M. Bonasera,
James W. Lorbeer, and
Steven V. Beer, Department of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853
Pantoea ananatis has been identified as a cause of center rot of onion. In the field, onion leaves can become infected with P. ananatis and lead to leaf blight. Infected bulbs often are detected only after harvest; however, it has not been demonstrated experimentally that leaf infection by P. ananatis can lead to bulb infection. In this study, onion leaf infection by P. ananatis leading to bulb infection was investigated. Of 18 strains of P. ananatis isolated from symptomatic onion bulbs grown in New York, 14 were pathogenic in bulb and leaf tissue. Pathogenic strains of P. ananatis caused nonmacerated, yellow-brown coloration in fleshy bulb scales following inoculation of bulbs and incubation for 2 days at 28°C. Subepidermal inoculation of onion leaves with pathogenic strains of P. ananatis resulted in gray-white foliar lesions that extended acropetally and basipetally from the points of inoculation. In all, 16% of leaf lesions extended to the onion neck and 11% continued into the bulbs, which developed nonmacerated, yellow-brown scales. Bacteria recovered from the leading edges of lesions had microbiological and molecular characteristics of P. ananatis. This is the first experimental evidence that infection of onion leaves by P. ananatis can lead to bulb infection.