Diversity of Strains in the Pseudomonas syringae Complex Causing Bacterial Stem Blight of Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) in the United States

Savana M. Lipps, Claudia Castell-Miller, Cindy E. Morris, Satoshi Ishii, Deborah A. Samac

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Alfalfa growers in the Intermountain West of the United States have recently seen an increased incidence in bacterial stem blight (BSB), which can result in significant herbage yield losses from the first harvest. BSB has been attributed to Pseudomonas syringae pv. syringae and P. viridiflava; however, little is known about the genetic diversity and pathogenicity of these bacteria or their interaction with alfalfa plants. Here, we present a comprehensive phylogenetic and phenotypic analysis of P. syringae and P. viridiflava strains causing BSB on alfalfa. A multilocus sequence analysis found that they grouped exclusively with P. syringae PG2b and P. viridiflava PG7a. Alfalfa symptoms caused by both bacterial groups were indistinguishable, although there was a large range in mean disease scores for individual strains. Overall, PG2b strains incited significantly greater disease scores than those caused by PG7a strains. Inoculated plants showed browning in the xylem and collapse of epidermal and pith parenchyma cells. Inoculation with a mixture of PG2b and PG7a strains did not result in synergistic activity. The populations of PG2b and PG7a strains were genetically diverse within their clades and did not group by location or haplotype. The PG2b strains had genes for production of the phytotoxin coronatine, which is unusual in PG2b strains. The results indicate that both pathogens are well established on alfalfa across a wide geographic range and that a recent introduction or evolution of more aggressive strains as the basis for emergence of the disease is unlikely.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)802-812
Number of pages11
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2024

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  • Pseudomonas syringae
  • Pseudomonas viridiflava
  • bacteriology
  • multilocus sequence analysis (MLSA)
  • pathogenicity


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