Bacteriophages specific to Xanthomonas campestris pv. pelargonii (Xcp), the causal agent of bacterial blight of geranium, Pelargonium ×hortorum L.H. Bailey, were isolated from soil and sludge samples from Florida, California, Minnesota, and Utah. Sixteen phages were evaluated for their potential to lyse 21 Xcp strains collected from around the world. The Xcp strains varied in their susceptibility to the phage isolates with 4 to 14 phages producing a lytic or highly virulent reaction. A mixture of five h-mutants was developed from phages that exhibited the broadest host-ranges and tested against the same Xcp strains. The h-mutant phage mixture lysed all 21 Xcp strains. Three experiments were designed to determine the efficacy of using a mixture of four h-mutant phages to control the spread of the bacterial blight pathogen on potted and seedling geraniums under greenhouse conditions. Plants surrounding diseased inoculated plants were treated with a phage mixture at 5 × 108 pfu/mL daily, biweekly, or triweekly, or treated with Phyton-27®, at 2.0 mL·L-1 every 10 or 14 days. In potted geraniums, daily foliar sprays of the phage mixture had reduced disease incidence and severity by 50% and 75%, respectively, relative to control plants after 6 weeks. In two plug experiments, the phage mixture applied daily also had reduced disease incidence and severity by 69% and 86%, and 85% and 92%, respectively, when compared with controls after 5 weeks. In all three experiments, disease incidence and severity were less for plants treated daily with phages than for those treated less frequently with phages or with Phyton-27®. Chemical name used: copper sulfate pentahydrate (Phyton-27®).
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