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Insect-Mediated Dispersal of the Rhizobacterium Pseudomonas chlororaphis

December 1998 , Volume 88 , Number  12
Pages  1,248 - 1,254

William E. Snyder , David W. Tonkyn , and Daniel A. Kluepfel

First and second authors: Department of Biological Sciences; and third author: Department of Plant Pathology and Physiology, Clemson University, Clemson, SC 29634

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Accepted for publication 24 August 1998.

The southern corn rootworm, Diabrotica undecimpunctata subsp. howardi, a common and mobile insect pest, was shown to transmit the rhizobacte-rium Pseudomonas chlororaphis strain L11 between corn plants. Strain L11 has been genetically modified to contain the lacZY genes from Escherichia coli. It can reach high densities on roots and invade the roots and move into the foliage. D. undecimpunctata subsp. howardi became infested with L11 as larvae while feeding on roots of seed-inoculated corn and retained the bacteria through pupation, molting to the adult stage, and emergence from the soil. Bacterial densities on or in the insects increased 100-fold after they fed again as adults on L11-infested foliage. Adults retained the bacteria for at least 2 weeks after last exposure and could transmit L11 to new plants. The likelihood of transmission decreased with time since last exposure to L11, but increased with time spent on the new plants. This research demonstrates that rhizobacteria can escape the rhizosphere by moving in or onto foliage, where they can then be acquired and transmitted by insects. This transmission route may be common among naturally occurring rhizobacteria and facilitate the dispersal of both beneficial and harmful soilborne microorganisms.

Additional keywords: insect vector , microbial ecology , microcosm .

© 1998 The American Phytopathological Society