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Development of a method for detection of latent European fruit tree canker (Neonectria ditissima) infections in apple and pear nurseries

Wenneker, Marcel, de Jong, Peter F., Joosten, Nina N., Goedhart, Paul W., Thomma, Bart P. H. J.
European journal of plant pathology 2017 v.148 no.3 pp. 631-635
Malus domestica, Neonectria ditissima, abscission, apples, autumn, climate, cold storage, control methods, cultivars, fruit trees, inoculum, leaves, orchards, pears, planting, rain, relative humidity, stems, temperature, Chile, New Zealand, Northern European region
Fruit tree canker caused by Neonectria ditissima is a serious problem in apple-producing regions with moderate temperatures and high rainfall throughout the year; especially in northwestern Europe, Chile, and New Zealand. Control measures are applied to protect primary infection sites, mainly leaf scars, from invasion by external inoculum. However, latent infections may occur when young apple trees are infected symptomlessly during propagation. This study aimed to develop a method for detection of latent fruit tree canker infections. Inoculations with conidiospore suspensions of N. ditissima were carried out in tree nurseries on the main stems of two-year-old trees of three apple cultivars and one pear cultivar. The inoculations were carried out during the natural abscission period in the autumn. No visible lesion or canker formations were present at the time when the inoculated trees were uprooted. It appeared that the infections may remain latent during the period from infection to uprooting (2 months) and during the subsequent 4 months of cold storage of the trees. Nevertheless, symptoms were generally induced within 8 weeks after transfer of infecting planting material from the nursery field into a climate chamber with high temperature and high relative humidity. The methodology presented is developed to detect latent infections of N. ditissima in nursery trees, prior to planting in the orchards, and it may contribute in reducing the problem with European fruit tree canker in commercial production.