Citrus sudden death (CSD) transmission was studied by graft-inoculation and under natural conditions. Young sweet orange trees on Rangpur rootstock were used as indicator plants. They were examined regularly for one or two characteristic markers of CSD: (i) presence of a yellow-stained layer of thickened bark on the Rangpur rootstock, and (ii) infection with the CSD-associated marafivirus. Based on these two markers, transmission of CSD was obtained, not only when budwood for graft-inoculation was taken from symptomatic, sweet orange trees on Rangpur, but also when the budwood sources were asymptomatic sweet orange trees on Cleopatra mandarin, indicating that the latter trees are symptomless carriers of the CSD agent. For natural transmission, 80 young indicator plants were planted within a citrus plot severely affected by CSD. Individual insect-proof cages were built around 40 indicator plants, and the other 40 indicator plants remained uncaged. Only two of the 40 caged indicator plants were affected by CSD, whereas 17 uncaged indicator plants showed CSD symptoms and were infected with the marafivirus. An additional 12 uncaged indicator plants became severely affected with citrus variegated chlorosis and were removed. These results strongly suggest that under natural conditions, CSD is transmitted by an aerial vector, such as an insect, and that the cages protected the trees against infection by the vector.
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