First and fifth authors: Department of Horticultural Sciences, second and third authors: Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, and fourth author: Department of Entomology, Texas A&M University, College Station 77843.
Zebra Chip disease is a serious threat to potato production. The pathogen, the phloem-limited bacterium ‘Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum,’ is vectored by the potato and tomato psyllid Bactericerca cockerelli to potato and tomato. Patterns of pathogen translocation through phloem in potato and tomato plants were examined to determine whether rate or direction of translocation vary by host species or potato cultivars. Two insects were given a 7-day inoculation access period on a single leaf. Weekly, leaves from upper-, middle-, and lower-tier branches were tested for the presence of ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’ by polymerase chain reaction (PCR). In tomato and potato, ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’ was detected 2 to 3 weeks after infestation, most frequently in upper- and middle-tier leaves. In potato, the pathogen was detected in leaves on a second, noninfested stem when the stems remained joined via the tuber. Although rates of pathogen movement were similar among potato cultivars, symptoms developed earlier in more susceptible cultivars. Quantitative PCR indicated that bacterial titers were frequently low in tomato and potato samples (<20 genome units per nanogram of DNA). Results establish that, for improved detection, samples should include newly developing leaves and consider that, under low insect pressure, the pathogen may be undetectable by PCR until 3 weeks after infestation.