Alternaria is a fungal agent of grape bunch rot which occurs during withering, a process which produces passito style wines. Seven isolates of Alternaria spp. were characterized using morphological examination, genotypic analysis and pathogenicity. Six of these isolates produced conidiophores and conidia displaying sporulation patterns typical of the Alternaria alternata species-group.Variability in colonymorphology andgrowthondifferent media was observed. Phylogenetic analysis of internal transcribed spacer (ITS) sequences clustered all isolates within a monophyletic clade, while intergenic spacer region (IGS)-RFLP profiles were congruent with those of A. alternata and Alternaria arborescens. RAPD-PCR proved helpful in discriminating between strains. To assay strain pathogenicity, grape berries were infected while undergoing withering conditions at different temperatures. Disease capacity was found to be strain dependent and varied consistently between themost and least aggressive strains. This study has provided interesting information on polymorphism within Alternaria spp. populations in withered grapes and on understanding the saprophytic role of this fungus during the post-harvest dehydrating process.
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