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Detection of Pathogens Associated with Psyllids and Leafhoppers in Capsicum annuum L. in the Mexican States of Durango, Zacatecas, and Michoacán

Swisher, K. D., Munyaneza, J. E., Velásquez-Valle, R., Mena-Covarrubias, J.
Plant disease 2018 v.102 no.1 pp. 146-153
Bactericera cockerelli, Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum, Capsicum annuum, Circulifer tenellus, Curtovirus, Potato purple top phytoplasma, Spiroplasma citri, autumn, dwarfing, insect vectors, internodes, leaves, microbial detection, mixed infection, pathogens, phyllody, potatoes, sweet peppers, weeds, Mexico
In fall 2014, 5 to 75% percent of chili and bell pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) in commercial fields located in the Mexican states of Durango, Zacatecas, and Michoacán had symptoms of deformed, small, mosaic, curled, and chlorotic leaves; shortened internodes; plant dwarfing; or phyllody and rosetting leaf tips. At the same time, leafhoppers and psyllids were observed in the fields, and more than 50 beet leafhoppers (Circulifer tenellus) and nearly 300 potato psyllids (Bactericera cockerelli) were collected from the pepper plants and adjacent weeds. Based on the insect pressure and observed symptoms, nearly 400 pepper samples were collected across this region of Mexico and tested for the presence of leafhopper- and psyllid-associated pathogens. In all, 76% of the pepper samples were found to be infected with ‘Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum’, beet leafhopper-transmitted virescence agent (BLTVA) phytoplasma, a strain of a curtovirus, or a combination of any two or three of these pathogens. Additionally, 77% of the collected leafhoppers and 40% of the psyllids were infected with one or more of these pathogens, in addition to Spiroplasma citri. Specifically, the leafhoppers were infected with BLTVA phytoplasma, S. citri, or a strain of curtovirus. Of particular interest, potato psyllids were not only infected with ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’ but also with phytoplasmas that belong to the groups 16SrVI subgroup A and 16SrI subgroup A. The presence of mixed infections in pepper plants and the insect vectors highlights the need for growers to effectively control both leafhoppers and potato psyllids from solanaceous crops in this region of Mexico in order to prevent the spread of these bacterial and viral pathogens.