Prunus persica (L.) Bastch (family Rosaceae) is currently represented by 83 accessions at the Canadian Clonal Genebank. Approximately 3,200 ha are devoted to peach cultivation in Canada where Ontario Province accounts for 82% of the national production. The clonal peach accessions, also located in Ontario, are monitored routinely for symptoms of phytoplasma infection, including rosette-like symptoms (3) that are characterized by new shoots with very short internodes, loss of older shoot leaves leaving only bunches of young leaves on the tips of naked shoots, and flowers that rarely set fruit. From June to August 2009, peach accessions PRU0382 and PRU0445 showed typical peach rosette symptoms, while another 14 accessions exhibited either short internodes or no symptoms. Leaf midrib samples were collected from 16 peach accessions, including 17 symptomatic (from which 8 corresponded to accession PRU0382, 6 for PRU0445, 1 for PRU0335, 1 for PRU0179, and 1 for PRU0451) and 16 asymptomatic (from which 5 corresponded to a representative of each accession PRU0382, PRU0445, PRU0335, PRU0179, and PRU0451 and 11 to other peach accessions). Total DNA was extracted (DNeasy Plant Extraction Mini Kit, QIAGEN, Valencia, CA) from 100 mg of each sample and used as a template in a nested PCR with phytoplasma universal primers R16mF2/R1 (1) and fU5/rU3 (2). Nested PCR products of the expected size (~880 bp) were obtained from all symptomatic samples (14 of 14) of accessions PRU0382 (peach-almond cv. Kando from the Czech Republic) and PRU0445 (peach cv. HW271 from Canada) only. All other plants with or without symptoms yielded no PCR products. Amplicons were purified (Wizard PCR Clean-up, Promega, Madison, WI), cloned in pGEM-T Easy Vector (Promega), and sequenced (Robarts Institute, London, Canada). The resulting 16S rDNA sequences were identical; one of each was archived in GenBank as Accession No. GU223904. BLAST analysis determined that the P. persica phytoplasma sequence shared 99% identity with 16S rDNA sequences of ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma asteris’-related strains. This relationship was also supported by restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis (RFLP) of rDNA amplicons using AluI, RsaI, and MseI endonucleases that yielded fragment profiles indicative of phytoplasmas belonging to group 16SrI (Aster Yellows), subgroup B (16SrI-B). Among phytoplasma diseases, those attributed to group 16SrI strains are most numerous and affect the widest plant host range. They include peach rosette in the United States and Europe (3) as well as diseases of various horticultural crops in Canada, including grapevine (4). To our knowledge, this is the first report of a subgroup 16SrI-B phytoplasma affecting peach in Canada. Early detection of phytoplasmas by PCR in accessions with both European and Canadian origins underscores the importance of prompt identification of infected plants for subsequent thermotherapy treatment to maintain the health of the collection and prevent further disease spread. References: (1) D. E Gundersen and I.-M. Lee. Phytopathol. Mediterr. 35:1441, 1996. (2) K. H. Lorenz et al. Phytopathology 85:771, 1995. (3) C. Marcone et al. Acta Hortic. 386:471, 1995. (4) C. Y. Olivier et al. Plant Dis. 93:669, 2009.
Pear decline (PD) is a serious disease of pear (Pyrus communis L.) caused by ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma pyri’, which belongs to the subgroup 16SrX-C of the apple proliferation (AP) group of phytoplasmas (3). Pear seedlings from the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) pear breeding program, which have been selected for advanced test and grower trials, are routinely submitted to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) Sidney Laboratory (formerly, CFIA Centre for Plant Health, Saanichton, BC) for virus testing at the same time that propagation is initiated to produce trees for further evaluations. In early 2007, the CFIA reported that samples of two seedling selections submitted in 2005 tested positive for phytoplasmas by a nested PCR assay with phytoplasma universal primers P1/P7 (1), followed by phytoplasma universal primers fU5/rU3 (2) and real time PCR with universal phytoplasma primers developed by the CFIA-Sidney (personal communication). Phytoplasmas present in both selections were subsequently identified as ‘Ca. P. pyri' strains by nested PCR with the P1/P7 primers followed by PD/peach yellow leaf roll (PYLR)-specific primers fPD/rPDS (2,4). These were the first PD-positive results from many samples submitted over the years for testing. Following PD-positive diagnoses for the seedling trees, others propagated from these seedling trees were removed from the nursery. When tested by PD-specific nested PCR (P1/P7 then fPD/rPDS), one selection had 39 of 79 nursery trees (49%) that were PD positive, while the other selection had 27 of 96 trees (28%) testing as PD positive. PCR amplification of DNA isolated from leaves of six of the propagated trees, with primer pair fPD/rPDS, yielded an ~1,400-bp product that was sequenced. A consensus sequence of 1,313 bp (GenBank Accession No. GU565959) was subjected to a nucleotide BLAST search of the NCBI database and showed 100% nt identity with sequences of phytoplasmas PD1 (AJ542543) and PYLR (Y16394). Subsequently, the PD-positive results from leaf, dormant shoot, and root tissues from the original seedling trees were confirmed by PD-specific nested PCR. On the original seedling trees, visible symptoms typical of PD, especially premature leaf coloration, were observed in late summer 2008 and samples taken of green and red leaves were subjected to PD-specific PCR. Red leaves were PD-positive, while green leaves were mostly PD-negative. Pear leaves, dormant shoots, and roots collected from research and commercial orchards in southern Ontario in 2007 and 2008 were subjected to PD-specific nested PCR (P1/P7 then fPD/rPDS), AP-specific nested PCR (P1/P7 then fO1/rO1) (2), as well as the universal phytoplasma nested PCR (P1/P7 then fU5/rU3), resulting in the identification of PD-positive trees of several cultivars. The sequence of the 1,057-bp amplicon from accession PYR0190 (selection HW615), with AP-specific primers fO1/rO1, was deposited in GenBank (GU475131). Although there have been no previous reports of PD in Ontario, Canada, it would appear that PD has been present for some time based on the number and distribution (both geographic and cultivar) of positive samples. References: (1) S. Deng and C. Hiruki. J. Microbiol. Methods 14:53, 1991. (2) K.-H. Lorenz et al. Phytopathology 85:771, 1995. (3) E. Seemüller et al. J. Plant Pathol. 80:3, 1998. (4) C. D. Smart et al. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 62:2988, 1996.