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Detection of ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ in Diaphorina citri and Its Importance in the Management of Citrus Huanglongbing in Florida

April 2008 , Volume 98 , Number  4
Pages  387 - 396

K. L. Manjunath, S. E. Halbert, C. Ramadugu, S. Webb, and R. F. Lee

First and fifth authors: U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), National Clonal Germplasm Repository for Citrus and Dates, Riverside, CA 92507; second author: Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Plant Industry, Gainesville, FL; third author: Department of Botany and Plant Sciences, University of California, Riverside 92521; and fourth author: University of Florida, Entomology and Nematology Department, Gainesville 32611.

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Accepted for publication 26 November 2007.

Citrus huanglongbing (HLB or citrus greening), is a highly destructive disease that has been spreading in both Florida and Brazil. Its psyllid vector, Diaphorina citri Kuwayama, has spread to Texas and Mexico, thus threatening the future of citrus production elsewhere in mainland North America. Even though sensitive diagnostic methods have been developed for detection of the causal organisms, Candidatus Liberibacter spp., the pathogen cannot be detected consistently in plants until symptoms develop, presumably because of low titer and uneven distribution of the causal bacteria in nonsymptomatic tissues. In the present study, TaqMan based real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction methodology was developed for detection of ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ in D. citri. Over 1,200 samples of psyllid adults and nymphs, collected from various locations in Florida, from visually healthy and HLB symptomatic trees at different times of the year were analyzed to monitor the incidence and spread of HLB. The results showed that spread of ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ in an area may be detected one to several years before the development of HLB symptoms in plants. The study suggests that discount garden centers and retail nurseries may have played a significant role in the widespread distribution of psyllids and plants carrying HLB pathogens in Florida.

The American Phytopathological Society, 2008