• disease forecasting;
  • epidemiology;
  • Monilinia linhartiana;
  • phylogeny;
  • taxonomy

This study elucidates the aetiology and epidemiology of monilia disease of quince caused by the fungus Monilinia linhartiana in Spain. Disease incidence and the dynamics of apothecial development and ascospore discharge were quantified and the pathogen was characterized using morphological and molecular methods. The pathogen did not produce conidia or apothecia on agar media but produced conidia on leaves showing symptoms and apothecia on mummified young quince fruit. Monilinia linhartiana was not pathogenic on ripe quince fruit but was readily isolated from developing, mummified fruit (pseudosclerotia). Phylogenetic analysis based on 5·8S-ITS region sequences placed M. linhartiana in the Disjuntoriae section of Monilinia species infecting rosaceous hosts. Studies during 2004–2008 in four commercial orchards in southern Spain determined two major infection periods for the disease. The first coincided with the unfolding of the first leaves and resulted in leaf blotch and shoot blight. The second coincided with flowering and led to mummification of developing young fruit. Foliar infection was apparently initiated by airborne ascospores produced on pseudosclerotia that overwintered on the soil surface, while flower infection was probably initiated by conidia produced on leaf lesions. Incidence of diseased shoots ranged from 1 to 91% and was correlated with calculated inoculum potential, based on the density and maturity of apothecia formed on pseudosclerotia. This epidemiological study has made it possible to characterize the life cycle of monilia disease on quince in southern Spain, which will help the development of new control strategies.