Two phloem-limited pathogens, 'Candidatus Arsenophonus phytopathogenicus' and 'Candidatus Phytoplasma solani', threaten sugar beet production in France, Switzerland and Germany. Previous studies of these pathogens in Germany had focused on its western and southern regions, leaving a knowledge gap about eastern Germany. Despite their importance, this study is the first to investigate phytoplasmas in sugar beet in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. A phytoplasma strain related to 'Ca. P. solani' is found predominant in Saxony-Anhalt, unlike in France, where 'Ca. P. solani' has a minor role compared to 'Ca. A. phytopathogenicus'. The phytoplasma strain infecting sugar beet in Saxony-Anhalt was classified into a new subgroup designated as 16SrXII-P. The MLSA of non-ribosomal genes of the novel phytoplasma strain showed that it is significantly different from the reference and all previously reported 'Ca. P. solani' strains including strain from western Germany. Analyses of sugar beet samples from previous years confirmed the presence of the 16SrXII-P strain in sugar beet as early as 2020, and also in Bavaria in southern Germany. Based on 16S rDNA analysis, 'Ca. A. phytopathogenicus' in Saxony-Anhalt is identical to strains in sugar beet in other parts of Germany and France, as well as to a strain in potato from Germany. The presence and prevalence of two phytoplasmas in sugar beet in Germany, suggest that more attention should be directed towards understanding phytoplasma infection in sugar beet in this country.
‘Candidatus Phytoplasma solani’ (stolbur phytoplasma) is associated with rubbery taproot disease (RTD) of sugar beet (Beta vulgaris L.), while Macrophomina phaseolina is considered the most important root rot pathogen of this plant in Serbia. The high prevalence of M. phaseolina root rot reported on sugar beet in Serbia, unmatched elsewhere in the world, coupled with the notorious tendency of RTD-affected sugar beet to rot, has prompted research into the relationship between the two diseases. This study investigates the correlation between the occurrence of sugar beet RTD and the presence of root rot fungal pathogens in a semi-field ‘Ca. P. solani’ transmission experiment with the cixiid vector Reptalus quinquecostatus (Dufour), in addition to naturally infected sugar beet in the open field. Our results showed that: (i) Reptalus quinquecostatus transmitted ‘Ca. P. solani’ to sugar beet which induced typical RTD root symptoms; (ii) Macrophomina phaseolina root rot was exclusively present in ‘Ca. P. solani’-infected sugar beet in both the semi-field experiment and naturally infected sugar beet; and that (iii) even under environmental conditions favorable to the pathogen, M. phaseolina did not infect sugar beet, unless the plants had been previously infected with phytoplasma.
Rubbery taproot disease of sugar beet (RTD), associated with ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma solani’, appeared in 2020 on an epidemic scale in northern Serbia and southern Slovakia, situated at opposite edges of the Pannonian Plain. In the affected locations where the disease was assessed, symptomatic sugar beets were analysed for phytoplasma infection. Additionally, multilocus sequence analyses of ‘Ca. P. solani’ strains on epidemiologically informative marker genes (tuf, stamp and vmp1) were performed. Symptomatic sugar beets from other countries of the Pannonian Plain (Croatia, Hungary and Austria), one sample from Germany, and red beets from Serbia were included in the analyses. ‘Ca. P. solani’ was detected in sugar beet in all assessed countries, as well as in red beet. Molecular analyses revealed the high genetic variability of ‘Ca. P. solani’ with the presence of all four tuf-types (a, b1, b2 and d), 14 stamp genotypes (seven new) and five vmp1 profiles (one new). The most common multilocus genotype in Serbia, Slovakia, Croatia, and Hungary was dSTOLg (tuf-d/STOL/V2-TA). It was dominant on sites with epidemic RTD outbreaks in the Pannonian Plain and in several sugar beet fields with non-epidemic RTD occurrence suggesting the prevalence of a particular epidemiological pathway during the epidemic’s phases.
Rubbery taproot disease (RTD) of sugar beet was observed in Serbia for the first time in the 1960s. The disease was already described in neighboring Bulgaria and Romania at the time but it was associated with abiotic factors. In this study on RTD of sugar beet in its main growing area of Serbia, we provide evidence of the association between ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma solani’ (stolbur phytoplasma) infection and the occurrence of typical RTD symptomatology. ‘Ca. P. solani’ was identified by PCR and the sequence analyses of 16S ribosomal RNA, tuf, secY, and stamp genes. In contrast, the causative agent of the syndrome “basses richesses” of sugar beet—namely, ‘Ca. Arsenophonus phytopathogenicus’—was not detected. Sequence analysis of the stolbur strain’s tuf gene confirmed a previously reported and a new, distinct tuf stolbur genotype (named ‘tuf d’) that is prevalent in sugar beet. The sequence signatures of the tuf gene as well as the one of stamp both correlate with the epidemiological cycle and reservoir plant host. This study provides knowledge that, for the first time, enables the differentiation of stolbur strains associated with RTD of sugar beet from closely related strains, thereby providing necessary information for further epidemiological work seeking to identify insect vectors and reservoir plant hosts. The results of this study indicate that there are differences in hybrid susceptibility. Clarifying the etiology of RTD as a long-known and economically important disease is certainly the first step toward disease management in Serbia and neighboring countries.