Pear decline (PD) is an important disease of Pyrus communis fruiting cultivars in Europe, Asia, and the Americas. PD is caused by a phloem-limited phytoplasma that, in California, is transmitted from diseased to healthy trees by pear psylla, Cacopsylla pyricola. The percentage of phytoplasma-infected pear psylla has never been assessed in the United States in field-collected insects. Pear psylla were collected monthly from PD-infected trees from three orchards in northern California. Individual psylla were tested for the presence of PD phytoplasma, using both a quantitative DNA hybridization and PD phytoplasma-specific polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays. The percentage of infected psylla ranged from 0 to 45% depending on the orchard, the month and year collected, and the method of detection. The PD phytoplasma was detected in both the winterform and summerform pear psylla. Significantly more infected psylla were detected with PCR than with DNA hybridization analysis in two of the three orchards. The number of PD phytoplasma per pear psylla was estimated to range from 1 × 106 to 8.2 × 107. The percentage of PD-infected pear psylla found in the three northern California pear orchards suggests that both winterform and summerform pear psylla could be important in the transmission of PD.
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