Transmission Efficiency of Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus and Progression of Huanglongbing Disease in Graft- and Psyllid-inoculated Citrus

Albrecht et al. (2014). HortScience 49 (3)
Names (1)
Ca. Liberibacter asiaticus
Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (Las) is a phloem-limited bacterium associated with huanglongbing (HLB), one of the most destructive diseases of citrus in Florida and other citrus-producing countries. Natural transmission of Las occurs by the psyllid vector Diaphorina citri, but transmission can also occur through grafting with diseased budwood. As a result of the difficulty of maintaining Las in culture, screening of citrus germplasm for HLB resistance often relies on graft inoculation as the mode of pathogen transmission. This study evaluates transmission efficiencies and HLB progression in graft-inoculated and psyllid-inoculated citrus under greenhouse and natural conditions in the field. Frequencies of transmission in graft-inoculated greenhouse-grown plants varied between experiments and were as high as 90% in susceptible sweet orange plants 6 to 12 months after inoculation. Transmission frequency in a tolerant Citrus × Poncirus genotype (US-802) was 31% to 75%. In contrast, transmission of Las after controlled psyllid inoculation did not exceed 38% in any of four experiments in this study. Whereas the time from inoculation to detection of Las by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was faster in psyllid-inoculated US-802 plants compared with graft-inoculated US-802 plants, it was similar in graft- and psyllid-inoculated sweet orange plants. HLB symptom expression was indistinguishable in graft- and psyllid-inoculated plants but was not always associated with the number of bacteria in affected leaves. The highest number of Las genomes per gram leaf tissue measured in sweet orange plants was one to four × 107 in graft-inoculated plants and one to two × 107 in psyllid-inoculated plants. Highest numbers measured in tolerant US-802 plants were one to three × 106 and two to six × 106, respectively. Compared with artificial inoculation in a greenhouse setting, natural inoculation of field-grown sweet orange trees occurred at a much slower pace, requiring more than 1 year for infection incidence to reach 50% and a minimum of 3 years to reach 100%.
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