The Effect of Phytoplasma Disease Caused by ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma prunorum’ on the Phenological and Pomological Traits in Apricot Trees
Abstract‘Candidatus Phytoplasma prunorum’, the causal agent of European stone fruit yellows (ESFY), is one of the most important pathogens causing considerable economic losses in stone fruit orchards. This study evaluated trees infected and noninfected by phytoplasma ESFY of 16 apricot varieties grown in an orchard in Lednice (Czech Republic) between the years 2008-2014. Pomological traits, phenophases, pollen germination and seed viability were analysed as well as the presence of ‘Ca. P. prunorum’ in pollen, flower organs, fruit flesh, immature seeds and seedlings by nested PCR. One of the most detrimental impacts was the decreased fruit set of infected trees which occurred in 12 out of 16 studied varieties reaching an average fruit set decrease of 16.1%. Pollen germination rates also suffered, showing an average decrease by 11.78% in infected trees. In the analysis of some traits, overall significant differences were observed between the infected and noninfected trees. However, for all analysed traits in different varieties, both positive and negative influences of phytoplasma ESFY were observed. The presence of ‘Ca. P. prunorum’ in infected trees was confirmed in flower parts (only in peduncle in 70.2% of cases) and fruit parts (immature fruit flesh in 42.0% and milky kernels in 26.2% of cases), however, neither in seedlings nor in pollen.
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