Contamination of bean seeds by Xanthomonas axonopodis pv. phaseoli associated with low bacterial densities in the phyllosphere under field and greenhouse conditions
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Xanthomonas axonopodis pv. phaseoli and its variant fuscans are the causal agents of common bacterial blight of bean. Production of seeds is recommended in arid climates with the use of pathogen-free seeds. However, contamination of seeds still occurs in these seed production areas. To verify if low contamination levels of sown seeds could explain these field contaminations, we used seeds that were naturally contaminated with CFBP4834-R, a rifamycin-resistant X. axonopodis pv. phaseoli fuscous strain, to contaminate field plots at different rates. We also inoculated seeds to verify some parameters of plant colonization and seed transmission. In growth chambers, seedling contamination was always successful from seeds contaminated with CFBP4834-R having population sizes greater than 1 × 103 CFU seed−1 and were not successful below 1 × 102 CFU seed−1. In the greenhouse, the efficiency of contamination of seeds was not significantly different between contaminated plants that had a low or a high CFBP4834-R population size and reached between 40% and 52% whatever the origin of the inoculum (aerial or seed-borne). In field experiments, under low relative humidity, plots with 0.1–0.003% contamination rates or plots sown with seeds that were inoculated with low CFBP4834-R population sizes (1 × 102 and 1 × 104 CFU seed−1) led to an asymptomatic colonization of bean during the entire growing season with low CFBP4834-R population sizes. Seeds were contaminated both in primary and secondary foci. The contamination of seeds without symptom expression during the growing season represents a risk for eventual disease outbreaks.