Hiding in plain sight: a widespread native perennial harbors diverse haplotypes of 'Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum' and its potato psyllid vector

Kenney et al. (2024). Phytopathology®
Names (1)
“Liberibacter solanacearum”
Agronomy and Crop Science Plant Science
The unculturable bacterium ‘Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum’ (CLso) is responsible for a growing number of emerging crop diseases. However, we know little about the diversity and ecology of CLso and its psyllid vectors outside of agricultural systems, which limits our ability to manage crop disease and understand the impacts this pathogen may have on wild plants in natural ecosystems. In North America, CLso is transmitted to crops by the native potato psyllid (Bactericera cockerelli). But the geographic and host plant range of the potato psyllid and CLso beyond the borders of agriculture are not well understood. A recent study of historic herbarium specimens revealed that a unique haplotype of CLso was present infecting populations of the native perennial Solanum umbelliferum in California decades before CLso was first detected in crops. We hypothesized that this haplotype, and other potentially novel CLso variants, are still present in S. umbelliferum populations. To test this, we surveyed populations of S. umbelliferum in Southern California for CLso and potato psyllid vectors. We found multiple haplotypes of CLso and the potato psyllid associated with these populations, with none of these genetic variants having been previously reported in California crops. These results suggest that CLso and its psyllid vectors are much more widespread and diverse in North American natural plant communities than suggested by data collected solely from crops and weeds in agricultural fields. Further characterization of these apparently asymptomatic haplotypes will facilitate comparison with disease-causing variants and provide insights into the continued emergence and spread of CLso.
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