Citrus huanglongbing (HLB) is a century-old destructive disease which presents an unprecedented challenge to citrus industries worldwide. In Florida, HLB is associated with the phloem-limited bacterium ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ and is mainly transmitted by Asian citrus psyllid (Diaphorina citri). Quantification of the pathogen population in a host aids in investigation of virulence mechanisms and disease management. Recently a procedure was developed to detect live bacterial populations using a novel DNA-binding dye, propidium monoazide, in conjunction with real-time polymerase chain reaction (PMA-qPCR). Chinese box orange (Severinia buxifolia) is a common ornamental present in Florida which could host D. citri and ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’. For 20 months, the change of the live ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ populations in graft- and psyllid-transmitted Valencia sweet orange (Citrus sinensis ‘Valencia’) and S. buxifolia plants was monitored by PMA-qPCR. Our results showed that the live ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ population was significantly lower in the months of December, January, and February than the rest of the year in both hosts. No statistically significant pattern in the total bacterial population was observed in either host. This pattern may indicate a seasonal growth of ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ along with the growth of both plants. These new findings should provide useful information on HLB management.
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