Recovery of Ralstonia solanacearum from canal water in traditional potato-growing areas of Egypt but not from designated Pest-Free Areas (PFAs).
Surveys over three seasons of irrigation, drainage and artesian well water throughout the major potato-growing areas of Egypt indicated that Ralstonia solanacearum bv. 2 race 3 (phylotype II sequevar 1), cause of potato brown rot, was limited to the canals of the traditional potato-growing areas in the Nile Delta region, with positive findings more commonly associated with the network of smaller irrigation canals flowing through potato-growing areas. Pathogen populations in the canals of the Delta (∼100-200 cfu l-1) were generally variable throughout the year with presence linked to potato cultivation in the immediate area. The pathogen was not detected in irrigation or drainage water associated with potato cultivation in the newly reclaimed desert areas (designated as Pest-Free Areas, PFAs) or in the main branches of the Nile upstream from these areas. In vitro studies showed that temperature and microbial activity were the main factors affecting survival of the pathogen in canal water. In experiments at temperatures of 4, 15, 28 and 35°C, survival was longest at 15°C and shortest at 35°C. Survival at 4 and 28°C tended to be intermediate between these extremes as was survival when the bacterium was grown at fluctuating temperatures. Aeration, solarisation and pH variation between 4 and 9 appeared to have little effect on survival. Survival in autoclaved or filter-sterilised canal water was longer than in untreated water irrespective of other factors with survival times exceeding 300 days at 15°C in some experiments. Evidence is presented indicating that survival in water-saturated sediment may be longer than in the overlying water suggesting that sediment may provide a protective niche for the pathogen in some circumstances. The maximum survival time in non-sterile Egyptian canal water at high inoculum pressure was estimated to be up to 300 days at optimum temperature for survival (15-30°C) suggesting the potential for long-distance spread in Egyptian surface waters from sources of contamination.