The potato psyllid, Bactericera cockerelli (Šulc), is a major pest of potato (Solanum tuberosum L.; Solanales: Solanaceae) as a vector of ‘Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum’, the pathogen that causes zebra chip. Management of zebra chip is challenging in part because the noncrop sources of Liberibacter-infected psyllids arriving in potato remain unknown. Adding to this challenge is the occurrence of distinct genetic haplotypes of both potato psyllid and Liberibacter that differ in host range. Longleaf groundcherry (Physalis longifolia Nutt.) has been substantially overlooked in prior research as a potential noncrop source of Liberibacter-infected B. cockerelli colonizing fields of potato. The objective of this study was to assess the suitability of P. longifolia to the three common haplotypes of B. cockerelli (central, western, and northwestern haplotypes), and to two haplotypes of ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’ (Liberibacter A and B haplotypes). Greenhouse bioassays indicated that B. cockerelli of all three haplotypes produced more offspring on P. longifolia than on potato and preferred P. longifolia over potato during settling and egg-laying activities. Greenhouse and field trials showed that P. longifolia was also highly susceptible to Liberibacter. Additionally, we discovered that infected rhizomes survived winter and produced infected plants in late spring that could then be available for psyllid colonization and pathogen acquisition. Results show that P. longifolia is susceptible to both B. cockerelli and ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’ and must be considered as a potentially important source of infective B. cockerelli colonizing potato fields in the western United States.
‘Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum’ is a pathogen of solanaceous crops (Solanales: Solanaceae) that causes zebra chip disease of potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) and plant dieback in tomato (S. lycopersicum L.) and pepper (Capsicum spp.). This pathogen is vectored by the potato/ tomato psyllid Bactericera cockerelli (Šulc) (Hemiptera: Triozidae), but little is known about the interactions between B. cockerelli and ‘Ca. Liberibacter solanacearum.’ Fluorescence in situ hybridization was used to assess the incidence of ‘Ca. Liberibacter solanacearum’ in the hemolymph, bacteriomes, alimentary canals, and salivary glands of B. cockerelli. Liberibacter was observed in 66% of alimentary canals, 39% of salivary glands, and 40% of bacteriomes dissected from adult psyllids. Compared with adults, the organs of fifth instars appeared less likely to harbor Liberibacter, which was observed in 52% of alimentary canals, 10% of salivary glands, and 6% of bacteriomes dissected from the nymphs. Results of real-time polymerase chain reaction confirmed that fewer fifth instars were infected with Liberibacter compared with adults and indicated that fifth instars were less likely to transmit the pathogen to noninfected host plants. These observations of the localization of ‘Ca. Liberibacter solanacearum’ in the organs and tissues of B. cockerelli adults and nymphs will aid the study of Liberibacter-psyllid interactions and the epidemiology of ‘Ca. Liberibacter solanacearum.’