Fire blight, caused by Erwinia amylovora, is a major disease threat to apple, pear and other pome fruit worldwide. The disease is widespread in Europe and has recently become established in Switzerland. Antibiotics are the most effective controls used in North America but these are not permitted for agricultural use in most European countries. A newly registered biological control product Biopro((R)), based on the antagonist Bacillus subtilis strain BD170, is being used as an alternative strategy for fire blight management. A specific molecular marker was developed for monitoring the spread of this agent on blossoms after Biopro((R)) spray application in a Swiss apple orchard throughout the bloom period for 2years. Direct spraying resulted in efficient primary colonisation of pistils in flowers that were open at the time of treatment. Subsequent bacterial dissemination (secondary colonisation) of flowers that were closed or at bud stage at the time of treatment was observed but was found to be dependent on the timing of treatments relative to bloom stage in the orchard. Foraging honeybees were shown to be disseminators of Biopro((R)) supercript stop. We also report detection of the biocontrol agent in honey collected from hives where bees were exposed by placing Biopro((R)) supercript stop at the entrance or in the hatching nest and from hives that were simply placed in sprayed orchards.
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