Secondary colonization of pear blossoms by two bacterial antagonists of the fire blight pathogen.
Dispersal of the bacteria Pseudomonas fluorescens strain A506 and Erwinia herbicola strain C9-1S from treated to nontreated pear blossoms, and the effect of their spread on fire blight caused by E. amylovora, were investigated at the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center near Medford, Oregon, USA. Center rows of trees in a pear orchard block of 10 rows containing 4 trees per row were sprayed with a mixture of P. fluorescens A506 and E. herbicola C9-1S at 30, 15, and 50% bloom in 1994, 1995 and 1996, respectively. Immediately after spraying, antagonists were detected only on treated blossoms. In 1994 and 1996, as bloom progressed, both P. fluorescens A506 and E. herbicola C9-1S were detected on nontreated blossoms located up to 4 rows (10 m) from the treated rows. In 1995, establishment of the antagonists on treated blossoms was poor and spread to nontreated trees was limited, apparently because of cold temperatures. Each year, honey bees were used to inoculate all trees with E. amylovora at 80% bloom. After full bloom in 1994 and 1996, the proportion of blossoms with E. amylovora populations >105 c.f.u./flower were highest in the outermost rows, and decreased linearly (P<0.05) with proximity to treated rows. In 1994, diseased blossom clusters decreased significantly (P<0.05) from the outermost rows to the treated rows, but there was no significant effect of distance on disease incidence in 1995 or 1996. Secondary colonization of blossoms by P. fluorescens A506 and E. herbicola C9-1S can play a role in disease suppression, but, among seasons, rates of secondary colonization by P. fluorescens A506 and E. herbicola C9-1S were variable, indicating that multiple applications of antagonists may be necessary to optimize biological control.