In August 2011, sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas), tomato (Solanum lycopersicum), and eggplant (S. melongena) crops from major growing areas of the Cameron highlands and Johor state in Malaysia were affected by a soft rot disease. Disease incidence exceeded 80, 75, and 65% in severely infected fields and greenhouses of sweet potato, tomato, and eggplant, respectively. The disease was characterized by dark and small water-soaked lesions or soft rot symptoms on sweet potato tubers, tomato stems, and eggplant fruits. In addition, extensive discoloration of vascular tissues, stem hollowness, and water-soaked, soft, dark green lesions that turned brown with age were observed on the stem of tomato and eggplant. A survey was performed in these growing areas and 22 isolates of the pathogen were obtained from sweet potato (12 isolates), tomato (6 isolates), and eggplant (4 isolates) on nutrient agar (NA) and eosin methylene blue (EMB) (4). The cultures were incubated at 27°C for 2 days and colonies that were emerald green on EMB or white to gray on NA were selected for further studies. All bacterial cultures isolated from the survey exhibited pectolytic ability on potato slices. These bacterial isolates were gram negative; rod shaped; N-acetylglucosaminyl transferase, gelatin liquefaction, and OPNG positive; and were also positive for acid production from D-galactose, lactosemelibiose, raffinose, citrate, and trehalose. They were negative for indol production, phosphatase activity, reducing substances from sucrose, and negative for acid production from maltose, sorbitol, inositol, inolin, melezitose, α-mathyl-D-glocoside, and D-arabitol. The bacteria did not grow on NA at 37°C. Based on these biochemical and morphological assays, the pathogen was identified as Pectobacterium wasabiae (2). In addition, DNA was extracted and PCR assay with two primers (16SF1 and 16SR1) was performed (4). Partial sequences of 16S rRNA (GenBank Accession Nos. JQ665714, JX494234, and JX513960) of sweet potato, tomato, and eggplant, respectively, exhibited a 99% identity with P. wasabiae strain SR91 (NR_026047 and NR_026047.1). A pathogenicity assay was carried out on sweet potato tubers (cv. Oren), tomato stems (cv. 152177-A), and eggplant fruits (cv. 125066x) with 4 randomly representative isolates obtained from each crop. Sweet potato tubers, tomato stems, and eggplant fruits (4 replications) were sanitized in 70% ethyl alcohol for 30 s, washed and rinsed in sterile distilled water, and needle punctured with a bacterial suspension at a concentration of 108 CFU/ml. Inoculated tubers, stems, and fruits were incubated in a moist chamber at 90 to 100% RH for 72 h at 25°C when lesions were measured. All inoculated tubers, stems, and fruits exhibited soft rot symptoms after 72 h similar to those observed in the fields and greenhouses and the same bacteria were consistently reisolated. Symptoms were not observed on controls. The pathogenicty test was repeated with similar results. P. wasabiae have been previously reported to cause soft rot on Japanese horseradish (3), and aerial stem rot on potato in New Zealand (4), the U.S. (2), and Iran (1). To our knowledge, this is the first report of sweet potato, tomato, and eggplant soft rot caused by P. wasabiae in Malaysia.
References: (1) S. Baghaee-Ravari et al. Eur. J. Plant Pathol. 129:413, 2011. (2) S. De Boer and A. Kelman. Page 56 in: Laboratory Guide for Identification of Plant Pathogenic Bacteria, 3rd ed. N. Schaad et al., eds. APS Press, St. Paul, 2001. (3) M. Goto et al. Int. J. Syst. Bacteriol. 37:130, 1987. (4) A. R. Pitman et al. Eur. J. Plant Pathol. 126:423, 2010.