Coffee ringspot virus (CoRSV) (family Rhabdoviridae) is transmitted by Brevipalpus phoenicis (Geijskes) (Acari: Tenuipalpidae). Coffee ringspot disease was first reported in coffee plants from Brazil in 1939 (1). In August 2000, severe symptoms of concentric ringspots and “oak leaf” patterns on coffee leaves (Coffea arabica L. cv. Catuai) were observed during field inspections conducted in two areas of San Gabriel de Desamparados, Costa Rica. The disease caused premature fruit and leaf drop in the affected plants. Some areas within the ringspot lesions remained green on senescent leaves. Because CoRSV particles remain restricted to lesion areas (1), this virus has not been purified, and antiserum for virus detection is not available. Therefore, leaves with symptoms were collected and examined by transmission electron microscopy. In ultrathin sections of symptomatic leaves, arrays of rhabdovirus-like particles were associated with the nucleus as described for CoRSV (2). Healthy tissues did not contain similar arrays of bacilliform and bullet-shaped particles. Twenty mites collected from the infected plants at the same locations and time were slide-mounted and identified as B. phoenicis. High populations of this mite were also observed infesting plants of Cajanus cajan L. that were intercropped with coffee at the same location. Sweet orange trees growing in the same fields as shade for the coffee did not show symptoms of citrus leprosis, a disease caused by another Brevipalpus-transmitted virus that was recently reported in Panama (3). To our knowledge, this is the first report of a virus similar to CoRSV in Costa Rica. The spread of this virus, presumably CoRSV, could seriously affect the coffee industry throughout Central America by increasing production costs. It may be necessary to apply one or more foliar acaricides to effectively control the mite vector.
References: (1) A. Bitancourt. O. Biol. 5:33, 1939. (2) C. M. Chagas et al. Phytopathol. Z. 102:100, 1981. (3) F. S. Dominguez et al. Plant Dis. 85:228, 2001.