Temperature mediates vector transmission efficiency: inoculum supply and plant infection dynamics
Climate, particularly environmental temperature, frequently plays an important role in disease epidemiology. This study investigated the role of environmental temperature on transmission of the generalist plant pathogen Xylella fastidiosa by its leafhopper vectors. In this system temperature is known to influence both vector performance and feeding rate, yet the implications for pathogen transmission have not been documented. Experiments were conducted over a range of temperatures to document effects on transmission efficiency of the California native Graphocephala atropunctata (blue-green sharpshooter) and the invasive Homalodisca vitripennis (glassy-winged sharpshooter). Inoculation efficiency of H. vitripennis was positively related to temperature. Graphocephala atropunctata mortality and transmission responded non-linearly to temperature, with the highest rates of both at the highest temperature. The experiment also evaluated whether differences in inoculum supply contributed to plant infection level using quantitative PCR. Although total X. fastidiosa population within G. atropunctata was not related to plant infection, the number of infectious vectors was a strong predictor of plant infection level-suggesting that the number of inoculation events is important in the development of systemic infection of X. fastidiosa in grapevines. These results, along with existing evidence from the literature, point to wide-ranging impacts of climate on the epidemiology of X. fastidiosa diseases.