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During the current season some strawberry growers have seen production of leaves and other vegetative organs from fruit tissue around achenes of strawberry fruit. This abnormal development of floral parts into leafy structures has been ascribed to physiological causes due to temperature conditions during transplant cold storage, plant response to changing seasonal conditions at flower initiation time, and to phytoplasma infection. Four distinct phytoplasmas associated with phyllody of strawberry fruit were found while investigating phylloid fruits from different strawberry clones and from different locations and sources.
Non-infectious phyllody of strawberry fruit. Photo credit Thom Flewell.
Figure 2. Phyllody
and other fruit distortions caused by phytoplasma infection (normal on right).
Photo courtesy Steven Koike, UCCE.
This abnormality can affect the flower and flower parts in strawberries which can cause problems for potential growers. There are two main ways that phyllody can occur:
Non-infectious phyllody: Non-infectious phyllody (Fig. 1) seems to be associated with an excess of supplemental chilling of the transplants while in storage. Although these symptoms are as alarming as they are, they will go away after showing up in a spring flush of fruit. Therefore the condition is not persistent.
Infectious phyllody: This category of phyllody occurs due to infection by a phytoplasma (Fig. 2). Phytoplasmas are bacteria-like organisms that are pathogenic to plants and are vectored by leafhoppers. Leafhoppers carry the phytoplasmas in their bodies and inject them while feeding on plants. Strawberry plants infected with phytoplasmas often continue to bear deformed fruit.
When you observe similar symptoms on your strawberry fruit and need to identify the cause, you can collect symptomatic fruit and send the sample to the AU Plant Diagnostic Lab Services.
Extension Fruit Crops Specialist
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