Surveying Potential Vectors of Apple Proliferation Phytoplasma: Faunistic Analysis and Infection Status of Selected Auchenorrhyncha Species

Insects. 2020 Dec 26;12(1):12. doi: 10.3390/insects12010012.


Apple proliferation (AP) is one of the economically most important diseases in European apple cultivation. The disease is caused by the cell-wall-less bacterium ' Candidatus Phytoplasma mali', which is transmitted by Cacopsylla picta (Foerster) and Cacopsylla melanoneura (Foerster) (Hemiptera: Psylloidea). In South Tyrol (Italy), severe outbreaks were documented since the 1990s. Infestation rates of AP do not always correlate with the population densities of the confirmed vectors, implying the presence of other, so far unknown, hemipterian vectors. By elucidating the species community of Auchenorrhyncha (Insecta: Hemiptera) at a regional scale, more than 31,000 specimens were captured in South Tyrolean apple orchards. The occurrence of 95 species was confirmed, whereas fourteen species are new records for this territory. Based on the faunistical data, more than 3600 individuals out of 25 species were analyzed using quantitative PCR to assess the presence of AP phytoplasma. The pathogen was sporadically detected in some individuals of different species, for example in Stictocephala bisonia Kopp and Yonk (Hemiptera: Membracidae). However, the concentration of phytoplasma was much lower than in infected C. picta and C. melanoneura captured in the same region, confirming the role of the latter mentioned psyllids as the main insect vectors of AP- phytoplasma in South Tyrol.

Keywords: Auchenorrhyncha; apple proliferation; infection rate; insect vector; ’ Candidatus Phytoplasma mali’.