Bacterial Leaf Scorch, a New Blueberry Disease Caused by Xylella fastidiosa
Since 2004, growers and scientists have observed a disorder described as "yellow twig" or "yellow stem" affecting a major selection of southern highbush blueberry, FL 86-19, in the south Georgia blueberry production region. The initial symptom observed was leaf marginal chlorosis and subsequent necrosis, which eventually progressed throughout the whole leaf resulting in early leaf fall. Thin, yellow twigs or yellow stems became evident on some cultivars. The described symptoms on blueberry were similar to those exhibited on grapes with Pierce's disease and on plum with leaf scald disease. This prompted the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) tests and isolations of Xylella fastidiosa, which is the causal agent of the previously mentioned grape and plum diseases. Two leaf and two root tissue samples were collected from a diseased FIL 86-19 plant for isolation and ELISA testing on 2 Mar. 2006. ELISA results indicated all four tissues tested positive for the bacterial pathogen, X.fastidiosa, whereas only the two root tissues provided positive isolations. One leaf and one root tissue sample were later collected from each of five additional diseased plants for isolation and ELISA testing. Both isolation and ELISA testing methods obtained positive results. Cultures were multiplied to inoculate seedlings of three cultivars: 'Southern Belle' (eight plants), 'Premier' (six), and 'Powderblue' (six) on 23 May 2006 and one selection, FL 86-19 (eight), on 31 May 2006. Two FL 86-19 plants started to show symptoms of marginal necrosis 54 days postinoculation, whereas one plant each of 'Southern Belle' and 'Powderblue' started to show symptoms of marginal necrosis 63 days postinoculation and 'Premier' stayed symptomless. All eight culture-inoculated FL 86-19 plants (100%) showed symptoms 72 days postinoculation, but no symptoms were observed on the control plants. One hundred twenty-six days postinoculation, two 'Powderblue' and four 'Southern Belle' plants showed mild symptoms, whereas all 'Premier' plants were asymptomatic. Positive reisolations of the bacteria from the inoculated symptomatic plants, not from asymptomatic plants, fulfilled Koch's postulates, which confirmed X. fastidiosa was the causal bacterium of the new blueberry disorder, the bacterial leaf scorch of blueberry.