Plant Water Stress Effects on Stylet Probing Behaviors of Homalodisca vitripennis (Hemiptera: Cicadellidae) Associated With Acquisition and Inoculation of the Bacterium Xylella fastidiosa

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The glassy-winged sharpshooter, Homalodisca vitripennis (Germar) (Hemiptera: Cicadellidae), is a xylem fluid-ingesting leafhopper that transmits Xylella fastidiosa Wells et al., a plant-infecting bacterium that causes several plant diseases in the Americas. Although the role of plant water stress on the population density and dispersal of H. vitripennis has been studied, nothing is known about the effects of plant water stress on the transmission of X. fastidiosa by H. vitripennis. A laboratory study was conducted to determine the influence of plant water stress on the sharpshooter stylet probing behaviors associated with the acquisition and inoculation of X. fastidiosa. Electrical penetration graph was used to monitor H. vitripennis feeding behaviors for 20-h periods on citrus [Citrus sinensis (L.) Osbeck] and almond [Prunus dulcis (Miller) D.A. Webb] plants subjected to levels of water stress. Adult H. vitripennis successfully located xylem vessels, then performed behaviors related to the evaluation of the xylem cell and fluid, and finally ingested xylem fluid from citrus and almond plants under the tested fluid tensions ranging from -5.5 to -33.0 bars and -6.0 to -24.5 bars, respectively. In general, long and frequent feeding events associated with the acquisition and inoculation of X. fastidiosa were observed only in fully irrigated plants (i.e., >-10 bars), which suggests that even low levels of plant water stress may reduce the spread of X. fastidiosa. Results provided insights to disease epidemiology and support the hypothesis that application of regulated deficit irrigation has the potential to reduce the incidence of diseases caused by X. fastidiosa by reducing the number of vectors and by decreasing pathogen transmission efficiency.


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  • Xylella fastidiosa