Understanding the biology and societal impact of the insect vectors of Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum


As part of a three-year project, Fera Science Ltd are excited to lead a new consortium named CaLiber.

The aim of the project is to research the bacterial plant pathogen Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum, its insect vectors and their potential impact on UK crops. These organisms are considered an emerging threat to agriculture in the UK and are included in the Defra Plant Health Risk Register. The research will be undertaken by project leader Dr Adrian Fox, Principal Plant Virologist at Fera and Glyn Jones, Principle Environmental Economist at Fera, and joined by SASA, John Innes Centre, Newcastle University, Rothamsted Research, and University of Strathclyde.

Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum (Lso) is an emerging threat to a range of crops including potato, tomato, carrot and celery and is under statutory control in the EU. Lso is vectored by insects known as psyllids. The most damaging psyllid species is Bactericera cockerelli (tomato-potato psyllid), which is associated with damage to Solanaceous crops (often referred to as “Zebra Chip” in potato) in North and Central America, New-Zealand and now South America. Both the vector and the type of Lso responsible for Zebra Chip are considered A1 quarantine pests and are not currently present in any part of Europe. In Europe, psyllids are responsible for transmitting Lso to Apiaceous crops such as carrot and can cause large economic losses. The main species responsible are Bactericera trigonica and Trioza apicalis (carrot psyllid). Whilst T. apicalis is present in the UK, it does not currently appear to be leading epidemics of the disease in carrots. Introductions of B. trigonica into the UK would be disastrous for the potato and/or carrot industry.

CaLiber research will assess the risk of haplotypes of the pathogen to become damaging epidemics should we have changes in the UK such as land use change or changes in agricultural policies.

By the end of the project our expected outcomes will be information on presence and distribution of the complex of pathogen haplotypes and how these interact with different hosts. We hope to develop tools and understanding to help manage this disease and prevent outbreaks in the UK to protect carrot and potato growing industries.

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