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Phenotypic Evaluation of Fire Blight Outbreak in the USDA Malus Collection

Laura Dougherty, Anna Wallis, Kerik Cox, Gan-Yuan Zhong, Benjamin Gutierrez
Agronomy 2021 v.11 no.1 pp. -
Erwinia amylovora, Malus, USDA, agronomy, disease progression, pathogens, phenotype, rootstocks, shoots, streptomycin, trees
Fire blight, caused by pathogen Erwinia amylovora, is a major disease in Malus. Biological, chemical and cultural controls are efficient to manage fire blight, while rootstocks, and host resistance can limit damages. During the 2020 season a naturally occurring fire blight outbreak occurred in the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Malus collection, providing a unique opportunity to evaluate the diverse collection for fire blight susceptibility. The E. amylovora strain in the collection was identified as streptomycin resistant and characterized as CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) spacer array profile, 41:23:38. Fire blight severity was assessed using two approaches: (1) Average severity percentage, where the number of infected shoots was divided by the total number of shoots for the east and west facing sides of the tree; and (2) cut severity rating, where the trees were visually assessed after fire blight removal for amount of tree removed. Overall, 1142 trees of 41 Malus species were assessed for average severity and 2525 trees of 48 species were assessed for cut severity. A subset of 667 trees were for average severity in June and July to understand the disease progression. The species and trees presented here, can provide insight for future genetic fire blight resistance studies.