Pollen as a possible pathway for the dissemination of Pseudomonas syringae pv. actinide and bacterial canker of kiwifruit.
Pollen collected in a kiwifruit orchard with symptoms of bacterial canker and naturally contaminated by Pseudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae (Psa), was used to pollinate an experimental orchard, in order to confirm its role, under commercial orchard conditions, in disseminating the pathogen and, possibly, contributing to disease spread. A pollen lot, certified free from Psa, was used with the same methods as a control. Two pollination techniques were used: dusting (dry pollen) and spraying (pollen suspension in water). The orchard was monitored during 2 years from experimental pollination, with regular sampling of flowers, fruits, leaves, and vines, to check for Psa as an epiphyte or endophyte, and for bacterial canker symptoms. Psa was recovered from flowers, fruitlets and leaves during the first season, mainly in plots where contaminated pollen had been sprayed in water suspension. From early August until harvesting time (mid-October), Psa detection was possible only on leaves. No symptoms developed during the first season after pollination. No endophytic Psa was detected in pruned vines in the following winter. During the second season, detection and isolation of Psa was erratic, but direct isolation was achieved from four plots. During the second season after pollination, typical leaf symptoms were observed on a few vines, and Psa was isolated and identified. Our results suggest that Psa could be disseminated via contaminated kiwifruit pollen as a pathway for spread of bacterial canker. However, further pollination experiments are needed to establish, beyond any doubt, whether contaminated pollen may contribute to possible disease outbreaks.