Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum, cvs. Mountain Fresh, Big Dena, and Trust) plants with symptoms of pith necrosis were received from six commercial high tunnels in Ohio during May and July 2012. Disease incidence ranged from 1 to 5%. Symptoms included wilting of shoots, dry, dark brown coalescent lesions on stems, brown discolored pith with a ladder-like appearance, and in some cases, adventitious root formation. Bacterial streaming was observed microscopically from necrotic stem tissue. Bacteria were isolated from surface-sterilized diseased stem tissue by plating 10-fold serial dilutions onto yeast dextrose carbonate (YDC) and Pseudomonas F (PF) agar media. The majority of the colonies recovered were similar in morphology on YDC: round and mucoid, with a greenish center that later became dry and winkled with a curly margin, and producing a yellow-green diffusible pigment. Colonies were creamy, yellow-brown in color and non-florescent on PF medium. Nine isolates from six plant samples were purified. All isolates were gram-negative, levan negative, oxidase positive, and potato rot negative. Three isolates were positive and six were negative for arginine dihydrolase activity. None induced a hypersensitive reaction in tobacco. All isolates grew at 37°C. The isolates were further identified by PCR assays using species-specific primers PC5/1-PC5/2 for Pseudomonas corrugata and PC1/1-PC1/2 for P. mediterranea (1,2). DNA of a reference P. mediterranea strain from Turkey was used as a positive control. A 600-bp band was amplified using P. mediterranea primers from the six arginine dihydrolase negative isolates recovered from four of six samples. An 1,100-bp band was amplified from the three arginine dihydrolase positive isolates from two other samples using P. corrugata primers. The 600-bp PCR products amplified from the P. mediterranea reference strain and isolate SM664-12 were purified and sequenced. The DNA sequence of SM664-12 was 99% aligned with that of the reference strain from Turkey and a BLAST search in NCBI indicated only one match with P. mediterranea strain G-229-21 (Accession No. EU117098.1), with an E-value 1e-145 and 84% identity. P. mediterranea (SM664-12) and P. corrugata (SM658-12) were each inoculated onto four 4-week-old tomato plants (cv. Mountain Fresh) by injecting a 50 μl bacterial suspension (108 CFU/ml) into the stem at the axil of the first true leaf (2). Negative control plants were injected with sterile water. Plants were kept in a mist chamber for 72 h at 25°C, then moved into a growth chamber maintained at 25/20°C day/night, 12-h light/dark, and 80% relative humidity. Plants exhibited dark brown lesions at the inoculation site after 4 weeks and brown discoloration of the pith developed, whereas no lesions were observed in control plants. The reisolated bacteria were tested by PCR and identified as P. corrugata and P. mediterranea. Therefore, we have confirmed that tomato pith necrosis in Ohio involves at least two bacteria, P. corrugata and P. mediterranea. Although tomato pith necrosis has been observed in Ohio since the 1990s, to our knowledge, this is the first confirmation of a causal agent as P. corrugata in Ohio and the first report of P. mediterranea causing tomato pith necrosis in the United States.
References: (1) V. Catara et al. Eur. J. Plant Pathol. 106:753, 2000. (2) V. Catara et al. Int. J. Syst. Evol. Microbiol. 52:1749, 2002.