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Brown rot

Brown rot caused by Monilinia spp. is one of the economically most important fungal diseases of stone fruit in Europe, and the disease causes substantial pre-harvest and post-harvest losses.

Brown rot occurs throughout the world wherever stone fruit is grown. It is most severe in areas where spring and summer rains are frequent. The disease occurs mainly after harvest, during fruit storage at temperatures around 20°C. The symptoms may also occur during long periods of fruit conservation at low temperatures (0-5°C); because in this case disease development is slowed down but not stopped.

What are the symptoms of brown rot?

Brown rot symptoms can appear on blossoms, flowers, twigs, and especially on fruit. Blossom and flower blight begins in spring in the anthers of the flower, spreading to the pistil and the ovary. Elliptical or fusiform canker originate  from the outbreaks or branches infected, with a massive production of gums, where abundant sporulation is observed for several years. Fruit can be infected at any time of their development. In immature fruit the infections remain latent without showing symptoms up to maturity. The first symptoms on mature fruit are small brown spots, which rapidly show brown rot with pustules developing conidia.

What are the economic consequences of brown rot?

The annual production of stone fruit in Europe amounts to 4.2 million tonnes (727,700 ha). Italy, Spain, Greece and France are the main producers. The economic losses may reach up to 80% of production depending on the cultivar (early or late season variety) and on seasonal weather conditions.

How can brown rot be controlled?

Currently, effective brown rot control depends on an integrated strategy based on fungicide spray programmes and cultural practices in the orchard because post-harvest fungicide applications are not allowed in the European Union.
The elimination of all diseased parts (mummies, outbreaks, branches, fruit), pre-harvest application of fungicides and insecticides, careful fruit handling at harvest to avoid damage, rapid cooling when stored at 0°C are methods used to reduce the incidence of the disease. Although strategies like applications of hot water, ultraviolet light, low-toxicity chemicals, natural substances, and curing have been studied, biological control is considered one of the most promising pre-harvest and post-harvest alternatives.

Use of pesticides

Currently, the management of brown rot disease in the field is based on a programme of fungicide applications, which do not ensure brown rot control in the field as well as post-harvest. Registrations of some fungicides used against brown rot are being withdrawn. Furthermore, fungicide-resistant  Monilinia isolates are an important problem to be considered in disease control management. Resistance develops more rapidly in polycyclic diseases such as brown rot in stone fruit, where multiple treatments are needed during the crop cycle.

BIOCOMES biological control agents

At present, only one biological control product is commercially available for brown rot control in Spain, which shows irregular effectiveness. More sustainable stone fruit production requires commercially available biological control products with consistent efficacy comparable to the control levels provided by chemical products.

Photo: Brown rot on peaches under field conditions caused by Monilinia spp. Picture: IRTA

Neus Teixidó
Neus Teixidó
Brown rot in stone fruit

Biological Control Agents

Penicillium frequentans is a common colonizer of peach twigs and flowers. Isolate 909 reduced twig blight caused by M. laxa in experimental stone fruit orchards and pre- and postharvest brown rot caused by M. laxa and M. fructigena.

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Bacillus subtilis CPA-8 was isolated from nectarine surface. It showed good efficacy against brown rot on stone fruit and other fungal fruit pathogens.

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Current stage of the Biological Control Agent


Month 18: Biological characterization and metabolite production of BCAs
Month 36: Protocol for a quality control system, molecular marker for each BCA
Month 36:Production of BCAs under pilot plant process conditions
Month 48: Protocol for formulations of both BCAs stable at least one year, adapted to practical conditions, and commercially feasible
Month 48: Biological brown rot control strategy on stone fruit validated in different stone fruit crops and European production areas including information on dispersion and persistence of each BCA


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