The citrus industry in Tunisia is based mainly on the production of local cultivars of sweet orange (Citrus sinensis), common mandarin (C. reticulata), clementine (C. clementina), and lemon (C. limon). Sour orange (C. aurantium) is the only rootstock presently being used in the major growing area located at Cap Bon where 80% of citrus is being produced. The presence of tristeza disease in the Mediterranean basin is a threat to the Tunisian citrus industry, and new rootstocks giving tristeza tolerant rootstock/scion combinations are urgently needed as an alternative to sour orange. Since some promising rootstocks are known to be sensitive to viroids (1), a survey was conducted to determine if the cultivars grown presently in Tunisia were infected with viroids. Following a preliminary report (2), an extensive survey was conducted from 1995-2001 that included 174 symptomless sources being grown at Cap Bon: 26 Maltaise demi-sanguine, 9 Maltaise sanguine, 20 Maltaise blonde, 4 orange doublefine, 16 Washington navel, 12 Valencia late, 29 common mandarin, 42 Cassar clementine, 5 Lunari lemon, and 11 Eureka lemon. These sources were graft-inoculated into Etrog citron that subsequently developed symptoms characteristic of viroid infection. Sequential polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis analysis and molecular hybridization using viroid-specific probes (1) revealed that all sources were infected with at least two viroids. Citrus exocortis viroid (CEVd), Hop stunt viroid (HSVd), and Citrus viroid III (CVd-III) were widespread and accounted for 68.4, 67.8, and 81.0% of the sources tested, respectively. Citrus bent leaf viroid (CBLVd) and Citrus viroid IV (CVd-IV) were only found in 32.7 and 2.3% of the sources. The most frequent viroid combinations were CEVd+HSVd+CVd-III (17.8%) and CEVd+CVd-III (17,2%), whereas HSVd+CVd-IV and CEVd+CBLVd+CVd-III+CVd-IV were found in a single source (0.6%).
References: (1) N. Duran-Vila and J. S. Semancik. Pages 178--194 in: Viroids. CSIRO Publishing, Australia, 2003. (2) A. Najar et al. Pages 398--400 in: Proc. 15th Conf. Int. Org. Citrus Virol, 2002.