Apple proliferation is a phytoplasma-associated disease transmitted by insects causing serious damage and economic losses to apple orchards. Investigations were carried out in 1999 and 2000 in northwestern Italy to identify the vector of apple proliferation and to study its population dynamics. Yellow sticky traps and beat tray samples revealed the presence of the psyllid Cacopsylla melanoneura (Förster) in eight apple orchards in the Aosta Valley. The species completes one generation per year; the overwintered psyllids colonized apple trees beginning in late January, whereas the springtime generation was observed beginning in early May. The offspring adults remained in apple orchards until the end of June, when they began to move onto other hosts. During 1999 and 2000, all apple trees present in the investigated orchards were visually checked to assess the fluctuation of disease symptoms. Polymerase chain reaction and restriction fragment-length polymorphism confirmed the presence of the apple proliferation phytoplasmas in both overwintering and offspring insects as well as in symptomatic apple plants. The ability of C. melanoneura to vector the disease was assessed by preliminary transmission trials. Overwintered psyllids, collected in the most affected orchards, caged on healthy apple test plants transmitted apple proliferation phytoplasmas.
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Vol. 95 • No. 3