First Report of Alternaria alternata f. sp. cucurbitae Causing Alternaria Leaf Spot of Melon in the Mid-Atlantic Region of the United States. Academic Article uri icon


  • Alternaria alternata f. sp. cucurbitae, the casual agent of Alternaria leaf spot, was first described in Greece where it caused severe losses to greenhouse-grown cucumbers (Cucumis sativus) (3,4). The fungus also attacks melon (C. melo) and watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) (1-3). In late June of 2006, following a period of windy and rainy days, numerous dark brown, circular lesions, 0.5 to 1 mm in diameter, were observed on leaves of melons in a field in Wicomico County, Maryland. The lesions gradually enlarged and coalesced into large, nearly circular, or irregularly shaped lesions that could be as long as 3 cm. The center of the lesions was light tan, surrounded by a dark brown ring and a chlorotic halo, and tended to split in the later development stages. Most of the lesions appeared on the edge of the leaves and no lesions developed on the stems and fruit. Lesions first started on old leaves and then developed on leaves in the middle part of the canopy. Leaf lesions were observed on melon cvs. Ananas, Honeydew Greenflesh, and Israeli. Disease severity ranged from 3 to 20% of the leaf area affected. Small pieces (3 3 mm) of tissue removed from the margin between healthy and diseased tissue were surface disinfected in 0.5% NaOCl for 2 min and plated on acidified, -strength potato dextrose agar. Isolations made from diseased tissue frequently (61%) yielded fungal colonies with morphological features and spore dimensions that were consistent with the description of A. alternata f. sp. cucurbitae (1,3). Fungal isolates were characterized by small, short-beaked, multicellular conidia. Conidia were ovoid, obclavate, and sometimes ellipsoidal with the average overall body length of 39 m (range, 17 to 80 m) and width of 14 m (range, 7 to 20 m). Conidia were produced on short conidiophores in chains. The beaks were short (often less than one-third the body length) and conical or cylindrical. Pathogenicity of six single-spore isolates was determined on four melon cultivars (Honeydew Greenflesh, Israeli, Tam Dew, and Topmark) and one watermelon cultivar (Sugar Baby) in a greenhouse. Twenty plants of each cultivar at the one-true-leaf stage were sprayed with a conidial suspension (106 conidia/ml) of each isolate amended with 0.1% (vol/vol) of Tween 20 until runoff (1.5 to 2 ml per plant). Inoculation with sterile distilled water amended with 0.1% Tween 20 served as controls. The plants were placed in a dew growth chamber for 48 h at 24C and subsequently maintained in a greenhouse at 21 to 29C. At 4 to 5 days after inoculation, each isolate induced leaf lesions on each inoculated cultivar similar to typical lesions observed in the field. There was no significant difference in disease severity among the cultivars tested or between melon and watermelon. Control plants remained symptomless. The fungus was readily reisolated from symptomatic tissues. To our knowledge, this is the first report of A. alternata f. sp. cucurbitae causing Alternaria leaf spot of melon in the Mid-Atlantic United States and the only report outside Georgia in the southern region of the United States (D. B. Langston, personal communication) and Greece. References: (1) D. L. Vakalounakis. Plant Dis. 74:227, 1990. (2) D. L. Vakalounakis. Ann. Appl. Biol. 117:507, 1990. (3) D. L. Vakalounakis. Alternaria leaf spot. Page 24 in: Compendium of Cucurbit Diseases. T. A. Zitter et al., eds. The American Phytopathological Society, St. Paul, MN, 1996. (4) D. L. Vakalounakis and N. E. Malathrakis. J. Phytopathol. 121:325, 1988.

published proceedings

  • Plant Dis

author list (cited authors)

  • Zhou, X. G., & Everts, K. L.

citation count

  • 5

complete list of authors

  • Zhou, XG||Everts, KL

publication date

  • April 2008