Identification of Zeoliarus oppositus (Hemiptera: Cixiidae) as a Vector of ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma australiense’

Winks et al. (2014). Plant Disease 98 (1)
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Agronomy and Crop Science Plant Science
‘Candidatus Phytoplasma australiense’ is associated with a number of plant diseases in New Zealand. The only known vector of this pathogen was Zeoliarus atkinsoni, a planthopper considered to be monophagous on New Zealand flax (Phormium spp.). The work carried out shows that Z. oppositus, which is polyphagous, is able to vector ‘Ca. P. australiense’ to both Coprosma robusta (karamu) and Cordyline australis (New Zealand cabbage tree). Although transmission was achieved to both these species, the disease symptomatology was more evident in C. australis. Two approaches were taken to achieve transmission. First, insects were collected from areas around symptomatic Coprosma plants and caged directly on test plants. Second, insects were collected from grasses and sedges in areas where disease was less evident and were fed on known infected Coprosma plants prior to being caged on test plants. Transmission was achieved using both approaches, although transmission was far greater (30% compared with 4%) from insects that were directly applied. Phytoplasma DNA was detected in 12% of Z. oppositus individuals tested during all the trials. This work identifies a new vector for ‘Ca. P. australiense’ and contributes to our understanding of the ecology of Cordyline sudden decline and Coprosma lethal decline.
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