J. H. Graham and
E. G. Johnson, University of Florida, Citrus Research and Education Center, Lake Alfred 33850;
T. R. Gottwald, USDA-ARS, Fort Pierce, FL 34945; and
M. S. Irey, U.S. Sugar Corp., Clewiston, FL 33440
Huanglongbing (HLB), associated with ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’, was first detected in Florida in late 2005 and is now widely distributed throughout the commercial citrus-growing regions. In recent seasons, concurrent with freeze and drought episodes, symptomatic HLB-infected trees were much more affected by the extremes of temperature and moisture than trees without HLB. Symptoms exhibited by the stressed trees were excessive leaf loss and premature fruit drop even when HLB-infected trees were managed with good nutritional and irrigation practices recommended to support health of HLB-affected trees. This stress intolerance may be due to a loss of fibrous roots. To assess root status of HLB-infected trees on ‘Swingle’ citrumelo rootstock (Citrus paradisi × Poncirus trifoliata), blocks of 2,307 3-year-old ‘Hamlin’ orange trees and 2,693 4-year-old ‘Valencia’ orange trees were surveyed visually and with a real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay to determine ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ infection status. The incidence of ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’-infected trees (presymptomatic: ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’+, visually negative; and symptomatic: ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’+, visually positive) trees was 89% for the Hamlin block and 88% for the Valencia block. ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’+ trees had 30 and 37% lower fibrous root mass density for presymptomatic and symptomatic trees, respectively, compared with ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’– trees. In a second survey, 10- to 25-year-old Valencia trees on Swingle citrumelo or ‘Carrizo’ citrange (C. sinensis (L.) × P. trifoliata) rootstock were sampled within 3 to 6 months after identification of visual HLB status as symptomatic (‘Ca. L. asiaticus’+, visually positive) or nonsymptomatic (‘Ca. L. asiaticus’-, visually negative) in orchards located in the central ridge, south-central, and southwest flatwoods. Pairs of HLB symptomatic and nonsymptomatic trees were evaluated for PCR status, fibrous root mass density, and Phytophthora nicotianae propagules in the rhizosphere soil. ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’+ trees had 27 to 40% lower fibrous root mass density and, in one location, higher P. nicotianae per root but Phytophthora populations per cubic centimeter of soil were high on both ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’+ and ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’– trees. Fibrous root loss from HLB damage interacted with P. nicotianae depending on orchard location and time of year.