An Evaluation of the Wilt-Causing Bacterium Ralstonia solanacearum as a Potential Biological Control Agent for the Alien Kahili Ginger (Hedychium gardnerianum) in Hawaiian Forests
- ISSN: 10499644
- DOI: 10.1006/bcon.1999.0705
Kahili ginger (Hedychium gardnerianum) is an invasive weed in tropical forests in Hawaii and elsewhere. Bacterial wilt caused by the ginger strain of Ralstonia (=Pseudomonas) solanacearum systemically infects edible ginger (Zingiber officinale) and ornamental gingers (Hedychium spp.), causing wilt in infected plants. The suitability of R. solanacearum as a biological control agent for kahili ginger was investigated by inoculating seedlings and rooted cuttings of native forest plants, ornamental ginger, and solanaceous species to confirm host specificity, Inoculation via stem injection or root wounding with a bacterial-water suspension was followed by observation for 8 weeks. Inoculations on H. gardnerianum were then carried out in ohia-lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha) wet forests of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to determine the bacterium's efficacy in the field. No native forest or solanaceous species developed wilt or other symptoms during the study, The bacterium caused limited infection near the inoculation site on H. coronarium, Z. zerumbet, Heliconia latispatha, and Musa sapientum. However, infection did not become systemic in any of these species, and normal growth resumed following appearance of initial symptoms. All inoculated H. gardnerianum plants developed irreversible chlorosis and severe wilting 3-4 weeks following inoculation. Systemic infection also caused death and decay of rhizomes. Most plants were completely dead 16-20 weeks following inoculation. The destructiveness of the ginger strain of R. solanacearum to edible ginger has raised questions regarding its use for biological control. However, because locations of kahili ginger infestations are often remote, the risk of contaminating edible ginger plantings is unlikely. The ability of this bacterium to cause severe disease in H. gardnerianum in the field, together with its lack of virulence in other ginger species, contributes to its potential as a biological control agent. (C) 1999 Academic Press.