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  • Author or Editor: Phil Brannen x
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Since 2004, growers and scientists have observed a disorder described as “yellow twig” or “yellow stem” affecting a major selection of southern highbush blueberry, FL 86-19, in the south Georgia blueberry production region. The initial symptom observed was leaf marginal chlorosis and subsequent necrosis, which eventually progressed throughout the whole leaf resulting in early leaf fall. Thin, yellow twigs or yellow stems became evident on some cultivars. The described symptoms on blueberry were similar to those exhibited on grapes with Pierce's disease and on plum with leaf scald disease. This prompted the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) tests and isolations of Xylella fastidiosa, which is the causal agent of the previously mentioned grape and plum diseases. Two leaf and two root tissue samples were collected from a diseased FL 86-19 plant for isolation and ELISA testing on 2 Mar. 2006. ELISA results indicated all four tissues tested positive for the bacterial pathogen, X. fastidiosa, whereas only the two root tissues provided positive isolations. One leaf and one root tissue sample were later collected from each of five additional diseased plants for isolation and ELISA testing. Both isolation and ELISA testing methods obtained positive results. Cultures were multiplied to inoculate seedlings of three cultivars: ‘Southern Belle’ (eight plants), ‘Premier’ (six), and ‘Powderblue’ (six) on 23 May 2006 and one selection, FL 86-19 (eight), on 31 May 2006. Two FL 86-19 plants started to show symptoms of marginal necrosis 54 days postinoculation, whereas one plant each of ‘Southern Belle’ and ‘Powderblue’ started to show symptoms of marginal necrosis 63 days postinoculation and ‘Premier’ stayed symptomless. All eight culture-inoculated FL 86-19 plants (100%) showed symptoms 72 days postinoculation, but no symptoms were observed on the control plants. One hundred twenty-six days postinoculation, two ‘Powderblue’ and four ‘Southern Belle’ plants showed mild symptoms, whereas all ‘Premier’ plants were asymptomatic. Positive reisolations of the bacteria from the inoculated symptomatic plants, not from asymptomatic plants, fulfilled Koch's postulates, which confirmed X. fastidiosa was the causal bacterium of the new blueberry disorder, the bacterial leaf scorch of blueberry.

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Partial budget analysis was used to evaluate soil treatment alternatives to methyl bromide (MeBr) based on their cost-effectiveness in the production of strawberries (Fragaria ×ananassa). The analysis was conducted for two geographical areas: the piedmont and coastal plain area (including North Carolina and Georgia) and the mountain area of western North Carolina, based on 7 years of field test data. The fumigation alternatives evaluated were Telone-C35 (1,3-dichloropropene 61.1% + chloropicrin 34.7%), Telone II (1,3-dichloropropene 94%), chloropicrin (Chlor-o-pic 99% and TriClor EC), InLine (1,3-dichloropropene 60.8% + chloropicrin 33.3%), and metam sodium (Vapam or Sectagon 42, 42% sodium methyldithiocarbamate). The MeBr formulation was 67% MeBr and 33% chloropicrin (Terr-O-Gas) with the exception of the earlier trials where a 98:2 ratio was used. In the piedmont and coastal plain area, the soil treated with chloropicrin showed the best results with an additional return of $1670/acre relative to MeBr, followed by Telone-C35 with an additional return of $277/acre. The projected return associated with shank-applied metam sodium was approximately equal to the estimated return a grower would receive when applying MeBr. Fumigating with drip-applied metam sodium, InLine, and Telone II as well as the nonfumigated soil treatment resulted in projected losses of $2182, $2233, $4179, and $6450 per acre, respectively, relative to MeBr. In the mountain area, all of the alternatives resulted in a projected increase in net returns relative to MeBr. The largest projected increase was $1320/acre for the InLine treatment, while the added returns for the TriClor and Telone-C35 applications were estimated to be $509 and $339 per acre, respectively. The drip-applied metam sodium application resulted in an additional return of $40/acre, and the added revenue for the nonfumigated soil treatment was $24/acre more than MeBr treatment. Although technical issues currently associated with some of the alternatives may persist, results indicate that there are economically feasible fumigation alternatives to MeBr in the production of strawberries in the southeastern U.S.

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