The potato psyllid Bactericera cockerelli (Šulc) (Hemiptera: Triozidae) is a pest of solanaceous crops (order Solanales), including potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) and tomato (S. lycopersicum L.). Feeding by high populations of nymphs causes psyllid yellows while adults and nymphs are vectors of the plant pathogen ‘Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum’. Foliar symptoms that were consistent with either ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’ infection or psyllid yellows were observed in 2019 on tomatillo (Physalis ixocarpa Brot.; family Solanaceae) grown within an experimental plot located near Saltillo, Mexico. This study had three primary objectives: 9i) determine whether the foliar symptoms observed on tomatillo were associated with ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’ infection, (ii) identify the haplotypes of ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’ and potato psyllids present in the symptomatic plot, and (iii) use gut content analysis to infer the plant sources of ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’-infected psyllids. Results confirmed that 71% of symptomatic plants and 71% of psyllids collected from the plants were infected with ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’. The detection of ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’ in plants and psyllids and the lack of nymphal populations associated with psyllid yellows strongly suggests that the observed foliar symptoms were caused by ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’ infection. All infected plants and insects harbored the more virulent ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’ haplotype B but one psyllid was also coinfected with haplotype A. The potato psyllids were predominantly of the central haplotype but one psyllid was identified as the western haplotype. Molecular gut content analysis of psyllids confirmed the movement of psyllids between noncrop habitats and tomatillo and indicated that ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’ infection of psyllids was associated with increased plant diversity in their diet.
‘Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum’ (Lso) is an uncultured, phloem-associated bacterium causing a severe tuber disease in potato called zebra chip (ZC). Seven haplotypes of Lso have been described in different hosts, with haplotypes A and B found associated with infections in potato and tomato. In the field, Lso is transmitted by the potato psyllid (Bactericera cockerelli), and between 2011 and 2015, a significant change in Lso haplotype prevalence was previously reported in Idaho: from exclusively A haplotype found in tested psyllids in 2012 to mainly B haplotype found in collected psyllids in 2015. However, prevalence of Lso haplotypes in Idaho was not analyzed in potato tubers exhibiting symptoms of ZC. To fill in this knowledge gap, prevalence of Lso haplotypes was investigated in potato tubers harvested in southern Idaho between 2012 and 2018, and it was found to change from exclusively A haplotype in the 2012 season to an almost equal A and B haplotype distribution during the 2016 season. During the same period, haplotype distribution of Lso in psyllid vectors collected using yellow sticky traps also changed, but in psyllids, the shift from A haplotype of Lso to B haplotype was complete, with no A haplotype detected in 2016 to 2018. The changes in the haplotype prevalence of the Lso circulating in potato fields in southern Idaho may be, among other factors, responsible for a decrease in the ZC incidence in Idaho potato fields between an outbreak of the disease in 2012 and a very low level of ZC afterward.
Zebra chip (ZC) disease, a serious threat to the potato industry, is caused by the bacterium ‘Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum’ (Lso). Five haplotypes (hapA to hapE) of this pathogen have been described so far in different crops, with only hapA and hapB being associated with ZC in potato. Both haplotypes are vectored and transmitted to a variety of solanaceaeous plants by the tomato/potato psyllid, Bactericera cockerelli (Šulc). Psyllids are native to North America, and four haplotypes have been identified and named based on their predominant geographic association: Northwestern, Central, Western, and Southwestern. Although all psyllid haplotypes have been found in southern Idaho potato fields, data on relative haplotype abundances and dynamic changes in the fields over time have not previously been reported. Here, psyllid samples collected in Idaho potato fields from 2012 to 2015 were used to clarify spatial and temporal patterns in distribution and abundance of psyllid and Lso haplotypes. A shift from hapA toward hapB population of Lso was revealed during these four seasons, indicating possible evolution of Lso in Idaho fields. Although we confirmed that Western psyllids were the most abundant by far during the four seasons of observation, we also observed changes in abundance of other haplotypes, including increased diversity of psyllid haplotypes during 2015. Seasonal changes observed for the Northwestern and Central haplotypes could potentially be linked to psyllid migration and/or habitat changes. South-central Idaho exhibited more diversity in psyllid haplotypes than southwestern Idaho.