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Worldwide Colletotrichum spp. have been identified as a problem in the apple production. This is the first study executed and confirming the presence of Colletotrichum spp. causing the postharvest disease bitter rot on apple fruits in Belgium. The identification, genetic diversity of Colletotrichum isolates (present in Belgian apple orchards) their morphological traits and pathogenicity on two apple cultivars (cvs. Pinova and Nicoter) with a different level of susceptibility were studied. Based on sequence analysis of six different gene regions beta-tubuline (TUB2), histone H3 (HIS3), glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH), chitin synthase 1 gene (CHS-1), actin (ACT) and the Internal Transcriber Spacer (ITS) gene region, six different Colletotrichum spp., belonging to either the C. acutatum or C. gloeosporioides complexes, were isolated from twenty-one apple cultivars in three Belgian orchards: C. fioriniae, probably C. kahawae, C. salicis, C. rhombiforme, C. acutatum and C. godetiae. Colletotrichum godetiae was found to be the most present and pathogenic species in Belgian orchards. The species C. rhombiforme was found and identified on apple fruit for the first time. Reliable morphological discrimination between species, based on features such as in vitro growth rate, colony colour and spore measurements, is not possible. As such, molecular identification appears to outperform morphological analysis and was in this study the most ideal tool for identifying unknown isolates of Colletotrichum species. Inoculation assays on two apple cultivars revealed a significant difference in pathogenicity among isolates and among Colletotrichum species. The pathogenicity tests also showed that isolates coming from another host species, e.g. strawberry, are also pathogenic on apple fruits. Cultivar Pinova appeared to be more susceptible to bitter rot than cv. Nicoter. Given the difficulties with managing Colletotrichum infections, additional knowledge on the pathogen and the plant-pathogen interaction is essential for effective disease control.
- Apple bitter rot
- Inoculation assays
- Molecular multilocus phylogeny
- Postharvest fungal disease