Erwinia amylovora populations resistant to oxolinic acid in Israel: prevalence, persistence and fitness.
Oxolinic acid (OA) has been the only bactericide used against fire blight in pear and quince orchards in Israel since 1998. OA-resistant Erwinia amylovora strains (Ea-OAR) were detected in several orchards in two restricted areas in the northern Galilee region during 1999-2001. In the following years, resistant strains could not be detected in some of these locations. Documenting the fate of Ea-OAR strains in commercial orchards at eight sites in northern Israel during 2000/03 revealed that the resistant population appeared irrespective of the number of sprays applied and the severity of the disease. The persistence of the Ea-OAR populations varied from site to site, ranging from 4 to 20 months; these differences could be attributed to the fire blight management activities of growers. Comparative studies on the fitness of Ea-OAR and E. amylovora strains sensitive to OA (Ea-OAS) were conducted in vitro and in planta using two strains of each group. In four of the six comparisons, disease incidence on detached blossoms inoculated with Ea-OAS was significantly higher than that on blossoms inoculated with Ea-OAR. In two experiments conducted on 8-year-old pear trees grown under netting, the colonization of Ea-OAS in blossoms, annual shoots and perennial spurs was significantly higher than that of the Ea-OAR. In two experiments conducted on 2-year-old trees grown under netting in an experimental station, the incidence of shoots exhibiting fire blight symptoms and the rate of symptom progress within the branches were significantly higher in trees inoculated with Ea-OAS than in those inoculated with Ea-OAR. The results of this study suggest that OA-resistant E. amylovora strains have lower fitness than wild-type strains. These findings may have implications for fire blight management.