Plants inoculated with the huanglongbing (HLB)-associated bacterium, Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas) typically must be monitored for 8–10 months to identify differences in susceptibility between genotypes. Continuous light is reported to accelerate development of HLB symptoms and field observations suggest that trees girdled by tags or tree ties showed greater symptoms. Therefore, an experiment was conducted assessing HLB susceptibility as influenced by light/dark periods of 12 hours: 12 hours and 24 hours: 0 hours, in combination with scoring tree trunks to disrupt phloem. Sixty trees of each of three citrus genotypes (‘Kuharske’, previously shown to be HLB resistant; rough lemon, previously shown to be HLB tolerant; and ‘Valencia’, highly HLB susceptible) were bud grafted using two CLas-infected buds (rough lemon and citron) per tree on 26 Mar. 2012, and were placed in controlled growth rooms (one 12 hour light: 12 hour dark and one constant light) on 4 June 2012. Ten trees of each genotype in each growth room were scored 10 cm above the soil (cutting through the bark but not the wood) with a knife on 18 July 2012 and the scoring was repeated at the same scoring wounds on 30 Aug. 2012. Trees were removed from growth rooms on 12 Dec. 2012 and subsequently maintained in a greenhouse. At two to three month intervals between June 2012 and May 2013, HLB symptoms and stem diameter at 5 cm above the soil were assessed, and three leaves per tree were collected for quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) determination of CLas titer. Six months after inoculation and 3 months following imposition of treatments, the ‘Valencia’ scored in the 12 hour light: 12 hour dark regime, the ‘Valencia’ non scored trees in 24 hours of light and the ‘Kuharske’ scored trees in 24 hours of light displayed higher CLas titers than most other trees. After an additional two months, both scored and non-scored trees of all three genotypes in 24 hours of light had significantly elevated CLas titers compared with trees in 12 hour light: 12 hour dark regime, but within most treatments all three genotypes had titers which were not statistically different from each other. Growth of ‘Kuharske’ and rough lemon was enhanced; whereas ‘Valencia’ growth was reduced when graft-inoculated plants were maintained in continuous light. Scoring enhanced early CLas development in ‘Kuharske’ when combined with continuous light, had no effect in rough lemon, and showed inconsistent effects in ‘Valencia’. Although continuous lighting enhanced disease progression, it did not reveal differences in HLB susceptibility.
Assessments of the resistance of citrus germplasm to huanglongbing (HLB) can be expedited by inoculating plants under laboratory or greenhouse settings with the HLB bacterium, Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas). Consistent rapid screening is critical to efficiently assess disease resistance among plant materials; however, a number of factors may govern the efficacy of such inoculations. Despite the rapidity at which HLB can spread in a grove, it often takes 8 to 10 months for high levels of CLas and HLB symptoms to develop even in highly susceptible sweet orange. Therefore, two experiments were conducted to assess factors that might influence efficiency in screening for HLB resistance. In one experiment, three test citrus genotypes (‘Kuharske’, previously shown to be HLB resistant; rough lemon, previously shown to be HLB tolerant; and ‘Valencia’, HLB susceptible) were bud grafted using CLas-infected buds from four different source genotypes. All bud source genotypes had similar levels of CLas titer, but citron, rough lemon, and Volkamer lemon were hypothesized to be better bud inoculum sources as they are more tolerant of HLB than ‘Valencia’. Among the three test genotypes over all sources of infected buds, inoculations of ‘Kuharske’ resulted in lower CLas titers and fewer HLB symptoms than inoculations of rough lemon or ‘Valencia’. Inoculations of rough lemon resulted in higher CLas titers and more pronounced HLB symptoms when it was inoculated using infected buds from rough lemon or ‘Valencia’. Grafting ‘Valencia’ with infected buds from Volkamer lemon resulted in less disease than when ‘Valencia’ was grafted with infected citron, rough lemon, or ‘Valencia’ buds. Overall, these results suggest that the source of CLas-infected buds used to graft-inoculate some genotypes will influence disease development. Trunk cross-sectional area increase for the year following infection was 3× higher in ‘Kuharske’ and rough lemon, compared with ‘Valencia’. ‘Kuharske’ had very low levels of CLas (30 CLas/µg DNA), whereas ‘Valencia’ (43,000 CLas/µg DNA) and rough lemon (6700 CLas/ µg DNA) had relatively high levels. As an alternative to graft-inoculating plants with CLas-infected buds, plants can be subjected to infestations of CLas-infected Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) as occurs naturally. Of interest is if transmission rates of CLas and the development of HLB in a genotype are greater when the ACP have been feeding on the same host genotype. An experiment was therefore conducted to assess transmission of CLas by ACP reared on CLas-infected rough lemon to five different genotypes (‘Carrizo’, ‘Flame’ grapefruit, rough lemon, ‘Temple’, and ‘Valencia’). These assessments were made using a detached leaf assay recognized as a faster method of gauging transmission rates of CLas than using whole plants. Higher percentages of ACP died when they were transferred from infected rough lemon to healthy ‘Carrizo’, and lower percentages died when they were transferred to rough lemon or ‘Flame’. However, CLas transmission by infected ACP occurred to at least some leaves of each genotype in each of the five different assays, with 70% or more leaves of each genotype becoming infected in at least one assay. Over all assays, there was relatively little variation among genotypes in the percentage of leaves becoming CLas infected and in the titer of CLas developing in infected leaves. However, there were relatively large differences in transmission rates among individual assays unrelated to differences among test genotypes. Because of the rapidity of the detached leaf assay, efforts are merited to improve consistency of this inoculation method.