Frequency of brown rot fungi on blossoms and fruit in stone fruit orchards in Greece

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Brown rot is a devastating disease of stone fruits caused by Monilinia spp. This study was conducted to investigate the disease aetiology on blossoms and fruit in peach, apricot, sweet cherry and plum orchards, in Greece. In total, 1433 isolates obtained from orchards located in the main stone fruit production regions of Greece were identified to species based on the presence/size of a cyt b intron. Monilinia laxa and M. fructicola were detected at frequencies of 59 and 41%, respectively, while M. fructigena was absent. Monilinia fructicola was more common on fruit whereas M. laxa occurred in similar frequency on blossoms and fruit. Monilinia laxa was replaced by M. fructicola in fruit infections of peach in both regions investigated and in fruit infections of plum in the Imathia region. Assessments of aggressiveness of 30 isolates of both species on the petals and fruits of the hosts showed that M. fructicola isolates were more aggressive. This suggests that the predominance of M. laxa on the blossoms cannot be explained by higher aggressiveness. Measurements of the effect of temperature on mycelial growth showed that M. laxa isolates had a higher growth rate than M. fructicola at the lowest temperature tested of 5°C, whereas M. fructicola isolates showed higher growth rates at higher temperatures. The observed high frequency of M. fructicola in Greece represents a major threat for stone fruit production. Furthermore, the information obtained about delineation of species and plant organ preference could be useful for the implementation of disease management strategies.

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