In April of 2012, tomato plants (Solanum lycopersicum) grown near the town of Yuroconte in the municipality of La Palma, Chalatenango, El Salvador, were observed with symptoms resembling those of “Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum” infection. The symptoms included overall chlorosis, severe stunting, leaf cupping, excessive branching of axillary shoots, and leaf purpling and scorching (1,2,3). Disease incidence in several fields in the area ranged from 40 to 60%. Heavy infestations of the potato/tomato psyllid, Bactericera cockerelli, were observed in the affected fields and this insect has been shown to transmit “Ca. L. solanacearum” to tomato and other solanaceous species (1,2,3). Leaf samples and psyllids were collected from one of the fields and total DNA was purified from the leaves of 8 and 10 symptomatic and asymptomatic plants, respectively (2,3). DNA was also extracted from the psyllids and the samples were tested by PCR for species confirmation. PCR oligonucleotide primers specific for both 16S rDNA (OA2 and OI2c) and a gene for a surface antigen for the outer membrane protein (OMB) (OMB 1482f and 2086r) of “Ca. L. solanacearum” were used to confirm the presence of the bacterium in infected tomatoes (1). Four of the eight symptomatic tomatoes (50%) tested positive for “Ca. L. solanacearum” using both primer pairs and all asymptomatic plants were negative for the bacterium. The collected psyllids were first identified through a morphological key, then verified using species-specific PCR primers (CO1 F3 and CO1 meltR) that generated a 94-bp fragment that was consistent with DNA from B. cockerelli (4). Amplicons generated with DNA from two plant samples with each primer pair were cloned and four clones of each of the four amplicons were sequenced. BLASTn analysis of the 16S rDNA consensus sequences from the clones (1,168 bp; deposited in GenBank as Accession Nos. KC768318 and KC768319) showed 100% identity to “Ca. L. solanacearum” sequences in GenBank (HM246509 and HM245242, respectively). Two OMB consensus sequences were 98% identical (deposited in GenBank as KC768326 and KC768327) and both sequences were 97 to 100% identical to a number of “Ca. L. solanacearum” sequences in GenBank (e.g., CP002371, FJ914617, JN848754, and JN848752). To our knowledge, this is the first report of “Ca. L. solanacearum” associated with tomato in El Salvador and the first formal report of the bacterium in the country. This bacterium has caused millions of dollars in losses to the tomato industry in New Zealand, Mexico and the United States (2,3). Tomatoes are an economically important commodity in Central America and are severely damaged by “Ca. L. solanacearum” infection. The confirmation of “Ca. L. solanacearum” infections in El Salvador alerts the agricultural sector to the presence of this serious pathogen. References: (1) J. M. Crosslin. Southwest. Entomol. 36:125, 2011. (2) L. W. Liefting et al. Plant Dis. 93:208, 2009. (3) J. E. Munyaneza et al. Plant Dis. 93:1076, 2009. (4) K. D. Swisher et al. Environ. Entomol. 41:1019, 2012.
In September 2011, potato (Solanum tuberosum) tubers grown in Nicaragua outside of Estelí and Jinotega were observed with internal discoloration suggestive of zebra chip (ZC); and the plants showed foliar symptoms of chlorosis, leaf scorching, wilting, vascular discoloration, swollen nodes, twisted stems, and aerial tubers (3). Disease incidence ranged from 50 to 95% in eight fields ranging from 5 to 12 ha in the Estelí and Jinotega regions of Nicaragua. Leaf samples and psyllids were collected from two fields, and total DNA was purified from the leaves of 17 symptomatic and 10 asymptomatic plants. DNA was also extracted from 20 individual potato psyllids. Primers specific for 16S rDNA (OA2 and OI2c) and the surface antigen gene (OMB 1482f and 2086r) of Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum (CLs) were used to confirm the presence of the pathogen in infected potatoes and insects (2). All symptomatic potato leaf samples tested positive for the presence of CLs using both primers, and no asymptomatic plants had positive results. Seven insects tested positive for the presence of CLs. 16S rDNA sequences obtained for all positive samples (1,071 bp) were identical and showed 99 to 100% identity to a number of rDNA sequences of CLs in GenBank (Accession Nos. HM246509 and FJ957897). 16S rDNA sequences from two CLs-infected plants, one from Estelí, Nicaragua (JX559779) and one from Jinotega, Nicaragua (JK559780), were deposited in GenBank. Identity of insects was done using a morphological key, and then verified as Bactericera cockerelli using a real-time PCR assay with melt temperature analysis of the cytochrome c oxidase 1 gene, as described by Chapman et al. (1). Sequencing of the amplified DNA yielded an approximately 63-bp read, with 100% homology to reference sequences of B. cockerelli (AY971886) and those obtained from psyllids collected in McAllen, TX, in 2010. B. cockerelli samples were collected from both locations. Similar to previous reports of ZC in new locations, foliar and tuber symptoms associated with ZC were observed in all eight fields in these two Nicaraguan potato-growing regions, specific PCR amplification with two primer pairs was completed, 16S rDNA sequence analyses showed 100% similarity to reference sequences of CLs, and the presence of potato psyllids which tested positive for the presence of CLs provide evidence that ZC is now present in Nicaragua. Potatoes rank in the top 20 commodities produced in Nicaragua, resulting in >$4.5M annual revenue. Because CLs has caused significant economic damage to potatoes in the United States, Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras, this finding has significance for potato production in Central America. References: (1) R. I. Chapman et al. Southwest. Entomol. 37:475, 2012. (2) J. M. Crosslin. Southwest. Entomol. 36:125, 2011. (3) L. W. Liefting et al. Internat. J. Syst. Evol. Microbiol. 59:2274, 2009.