The etiology and main pathways for the spread of lavender decline, an infectious disease affecting French lavender production since the 1960s, have remained unclear, hampering the development of efficient control strategies. An extensive survey of lavender fields led to the conclusion that “
Phytoplasma solani” was chronically infecting declining lavenders and was associated with large infectious populations of
planthoppers living on the crop itself. Lavender appeared to be the main reservoir host for lavender-specific phytoplasma strains, an unusual feature for this phytoplasma, which usually propagates from reservoir weeds to various economically important crops. These results point out the necessity to protect young lavender fields from the initial phytoplasma inoculum coming from surrounding lavender fields or from infected nurseries and to promote agricultural practices that reduce the development of
In addition to the grapevine flavescence dorée phytoplasmas, other members of taxonomic group 16SrV phytoplasmas infect grapevines, alders and species of the genera Clematis and Rubus in Europe. In order to investigate which phytoplasmas constitute discrete, species-level taxa, several strains were analysed by comparing their 16S rRNA gene sequences and a set of five housekeeping genes. Whereas 16S rRNA gene sequence similarity values were >97.5 %, the proposed threshold to distinguish two ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma’ taxa, phylogenetic analysis of the combined sequences of the tuf, rplV-rpsC, rplF-rplR, map and uvrB-degV genetic loci showed that two discrete phylogenetic clusters could be clearly distinguished. The first cluster grouped flavescence dorée (FD) phytoplasmas, alder yellows (AldY) phytoplasmas, Clematis (CL) phytoplasmas and the Palatinate grapevine yellows (PGY) phytoplasmas. The second cluster comprised Rubus stunt (RS) phytoplasmas. In addition to the specificity of the insect vector, the Rubus stunt phytoplasma contained specific sequences in the 16S rRNA gene. Hence, the Rubus stunt phytoplasma 16S rRNA gene was sufficiently differentiated to represent a novel putative taxon: ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma rubi’.