The bacterium Ralstonia syzygii subsp. celebesensis causes Blood disease of banana, a vascular wilt of economic significance in Indonesia and Malaysia. Blood disease has expanded its geographic range in the last 20 years and is an emerging threat to Southeast Asian banana production. Many aspects of the disease cycle and biology are not well understood, including the ability of different parts of the female and male inflorescence of banana to act as infection courts. This study confirms that the banana varieties of Cavendish, and Kepok 'Kuning' are susceptible to Blood disease and that an inoculum concentration of 102 CFU.mL-1 of R. syzygii subsp. celebesensis is adequate to initiate disease following pseudostem inoculation. Data show that infection occurs through both the male and female parts of a banana inflorescence and the rachis when snapped to remove the male bell. The infection courts are the female flowers, the male bell bract scar, the male bell flower cushion, the snapped rachis, and deflowered fingers. The location of these infection courts concurs with the dye studies demonstrating that dye externally applied to these plants parts enters the plant vascular system. Thus, the hypothesis is supported that infection of R. syzygii subsp. celebesensis occurs through open xylem vessels of the male and female parts of the banana inflorescence.
Banana Blood disease is a bacterial wilt caused by Ralstonia syzygii subsp. celebesensis and is an economically important disease in Indonesia and Malaysia. Transmission of this pathogen is hypothesized to occur through insects mechanically transferring bacteria from diseased to healthy banana inflorescences, and other pathways involving pruning tools, water movement and root-to-root contact. This study demonstrates that the ooze from the infected male bell and the sap from various symptomatic plant parts are infective and the cut surfaces of a bunch peduncle, petiole, corm, and the rachis act as infection courts for R. syzygii subsp. celebesensis. In addition, evidence is provided that R. syzygii subsp. celebesensis is highly tool transmissible, that the bacterium can be transferred from the roots of a diseased plant to the roots of a healthy plant and transferred from the mother plant to the sucker. We provide evidence that local dispersal of Blood disease is predominantly through mechanical transmission by insects, birds, bats or human activities from diseased to healthy banana plants and that long-distance dispersal is through the movement of contaminated planting material. Disease management strategies to prevent crop losses associated with this emerging disease are discussed based on our findings.
Blood disease in bananas caused by Ralstonia syzygii subsp. celebesensis is a bacterial wilt causing significant crop losses in Indonesia and Malaysia. Disease symptoms include wilting of the plant and red-brown vascular staining, internal rot, and discoloration of green banana fruit. There is no known varietal resistance to this disease in the Musa genus, although variation in susceptibility has been observed, with the popular Indonesian cooking banana variety Kepok being highly susceptible. This study established the current geographic distribution of Blood disease in Indonesia and confirmed the pathogenicity of isolates by Koch's postulates. The long-distance distribution of the disease followed an arbitrary pattern indicative of human-assisted movement of infected banana materials. In contrast, local or short-distance spread radiated from a single infection source, indicative of dispersal by insects and possibly contaminated tools, water, or soil. The rapid expansion of its geographical range makes Blood disease an emerging threat to banana production in Southeast Asia and beyond.