Project

Investigating the role of plant hosts in the outbreaks of the aster leafhoppers-vectored Aster Yellows

Goal: Evaluate the development of Aster leafhoppers on different plant species and also determine if there is a preference for a certain plant species. Evaluate the disease development on these plant species as well.

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Berenice Romero
added a research item
Polyphagous insects are characterized by a broad diet comprising plant species from different taxonomic groups. Within these insects, migratory species are of particular interest, given that they encounter unpredictable environments, with abrupt spatial and temporal changes in plant availability and density. Aster leafhoppers (Hemiptera: Cicadellidae: Macrosteles quadrilineatus Forbes) arrive in the Canadian Prairies in spring and early summer and are the main vector of a prokaryotic plant pathogen known as Aster Yellows Phytoplasma (AYp) (Candidatus Phytoplasma asteris). Host choice selection behavior of Aster leafhoppers was evaluated through two-choice bioassays, using domesticated and wild plants species commonly found in the Canadian Prairies. Leaf tissues from these plants were collected and stained to quantify the number of stylet sheaths and eggs. To assess possible effects due to insect infection, two-choice bioassays were repeated using leafhoppers infected with AYp and a subset of plant species. When two domesticated or wild plant species were presented together, similar numbers of uninfected Aster leafhoppers were observed on both plant species in most combinations. In domesticated-wild plant bioassays, uninfected Aster leafhoppers preferred to settle on the domesticated species. There was little to no association between settling preferences and stylet sheath and egg counts. These findings provide a better understanding of AY epidemiology and suggest that after domesticated species germination, leafhoppers could move from nearby wild plants into the preferred cereals (Poales: Poaceae) to settle on them, influencing the risk of AYp infection in some of these species.
Berenice Romero
added a research item
Some plant pathogens are capable of manipulating their insect vectors and plant hosts in a way that disease transmission is enhanced. Aster leafhopper (Macrosteles quadrilineatus Forbes) (Hemiptera: Cicadellidae) is the main vector of Aster Yellows Phytoplasma (Candidatus Phytoplasma asteris) in the Canadian Prairies, which causes Aster Yellows (AY) disease in over 300 plant species including cereals and oilseeds. However, little is known about the host range of Aster leafhoppers or their host-choice selection behavior in this geographical region. Several crop and noncrop species commonly found in the Canadian Prairies were evaluated as food and reproductive hosts for Aster leafhoppers through no-choice bioassays. To study possible effects of pathogen infection, AY-uninfected and AY-infected insects were used. Cereals and some noncrops like fleabane were suitable reproductive hosts for Aster leafhoppers, with numbers of offspring observed in treatments using both AY-uninfected and AY-infected insects, suggesting an egg-laying preference on these plant species. Development was similar across the different plant species, except for canola and sowthistle, where growth indexes were lower. Sex-ratios of Aster leafhopper adults did not differ among the plant species or with respect to AY infection. Potential fecundity differed across plant species and was affected by the infection status of the insect. These findings have implications for AY epidemiology and suggest that while cereals can be suitable host plants for Aster leafhopper oviposition and development, some noncrop species could act as alternate hosts for leafhoppers that migrate into the Canadian Prairies before emergence of cereal and canola crops.
Berenice Romero
added a project goal
Evaluate the development of Aster leafhoppers on different plant species and also determine if there is a preference for a certain plant species. Evaluate the disease development on these plant species as well.