Pierce’s disease (PD) of grapevines is caused by a xylem-limited bacterium Xylella fastidiosa (Wells, Raju, Hung, Weisburg, Mandelco-Paul, and Brenner) that is transmitted to plants by xylem sap-feeding insects. The introduction of the sharpshooter leafhopper Homalodisca coagulata (Say) into California has initiated new PD epidemics in southern California. In laboratory experiments, the major characteristics of H. coagulata’s transmission of X. fastidiosa to grapevines were the same as reported for other vectors: short or absent latent period; nymphs transmitted but lost infectivity after molting and regained infectivity after feeding on infected plants; and infectivity persisted in adults. Adult H. coagulata acquired and inoculated X. fastidiosa in <1 h of access time on a plant. Inoculation rates increased with access time, but acquisition efficiency (20% per individual) did not increase significantly beyond 6-h access. Estimated inoculation efficiency per individual per day was 19.6, 17.9, and 10.3% for experiments where plant access was 1, 2, and 4 d, respectively. Freshly molted adults and nymphs acquired and transmitted X. fastidiosa more efficiently than did older, field-collected insects. H. coagulata transmitted X. fastidiosa to 2-yr-old woody tissues of grapevines as efficiently as to green shoots. H. coagulata transmitted X. fastidiosa 3.5 mo after acquisition, demonstrating persistence of infectivity in adults. About half (14/29) of the H. coagulata from which we failed to culture X. fastidiosa from homogenized heads (with a detection threshold of 265 CFU/head) transmitted the pathogen to grape, and 17 of 24 from which we cultured X. fastidiosa transmitted.
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Vol. 96 • No. 2