A mixture of host-range mutant (h-mutant) bacteriophages specific for tomato race 1 (T1) and race 3 (T3) of the bacterial spot pathogen, Xanthomonas campestris pv. vesicatoria (Doidge) Dye was evaluated for biological control of bacterial spot on `Sunbeam' tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) transplants and field-grown plants for two seasons (Fall 1997 and Fall 1998). Foliar applications of bacteriophages were compared with similar applications of water (control) and of copper/mancozeb bactericides, the commonly used chemical control strategy for tomato seedling and field production. In 1997, the incidence of bacterial spot on greenhouse-grown seedlings was reduced from 40.5% (control) to 5.5% or 0.9% for bactericide- or bacteriophage-treated plants, respectively. In 1998, the incidence of bacterial spot was 17.4% on control plants vs. 5.5% and 2.7% for bactericide- and bacteriophage-treated plants, respectively, although these differences were not statistically significant at P ≤ 0.05. Applications of bacteriophages to field-grown tomatoes decreased disease severity as measured by the area under the disease progress curve (AUDPC) by 17.5% (1997) and 16.8% (1998) compared with untreated control plants. Preharvest plant vigor ratings, taken twice during each field season, were higher in the bacteriophage-treated plants than in either bactericide-treated plants or nontreated controls except for the early vigor rating in 1998. Use of bacteriophages increased total weight of extra-large fruit 14.9% (1997) and 24.2% (1998) relative to that of nontreated control plants, and 37.8% (1997) and 23.9% (1998) relative to that of plants treated with the chemical bactericides. Chemical names used: manganese, zinc, carboxyethylene bis dithiocarbamate (mancozeb).
Current address: Dept. of Plant Pathology, Univ. of Florida, 1439 Fifield Hall, Gainesville, FL 32611.