Antimicrobial and genetic strategies to defend kiwifruit against the bacterial pathogen Pseudomonas syringae pathovar actinidiae (Psa)
A highly virulent strain of the bacterium Pseudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae (Psa-V), the causative agent of bacterial canker of kiwifruit, is threatening the $1.5 billion New Zealand kiwifruit industry. A strain of Psa-V was first identified in Italy in 2008 and related strain with a similar level of virulence arrived in New Zealand in November 2010. Since then it has been spreading rapidly throughout the country with devastating effects. Currently there is no effective treatment for growers to control Psa-V in their orchards and the potential impact of Psa-V on the New Zealand kiwifruit industry and growers is catastrophic. As part of a collaboration between Seeka Kiwifruit Industries, EastPack NZ, and a group of scientists nationwide (Taskforce Green) this work designed and implemented laboratory tests to quantify the effect of candidate antimicrobial sprays. Novel formulations with strong antimicrobial properties, including silver nanoparticles were also tested. This work was complemented by an investigation into the antibiotic resistance potential of Psa-V. A spontaneous streptomycin resistant mutant of Psa-V was generated and the molecular mechanism of resistance was elucidated. Further, gene knockout strategies aimed at facilitating the study of Psa-V virulence genes and ultimately developing a potential biocontrol agent were tested. Overall, this work together with several recent advances in the field should help advise the kiwifruit industry on best practice around the use of anti-Psa-V agents, and may make it possible to facilitate the generation and testing of candidate biocontrol agents in the near future.