Occurrence of different Cacopsylla species in apple orchards in South Tyrol (Italy) and detection of apple proliferation phytoplasma in Cacopsylla melanoneura and Cacopsylla picta
Preventing the diffusion of phytoplasma associated diseases until now is based mainly on indirect control measurements against the transmitting insect vectors. Apple proliferation, one of the economically most important pests in European apple cultivation is caused by the apple proliferation (AP) phytoplasma (‘Candidatus Phytoplasma mali’), which is spread by the psyllids Cacopsylla (C.) picta (Foerster, 1848) and C. melanoneura (Foerster, 1848). Current control measures primarily comprise treatments against these AP phytoplasma transmitting vectors. The surveillance of C. picta and C. melanoneura population dynamics, as well as the determination of their infection rate in the field are crucial prerequisites to develop suitable and appropriate strategies to limit further spread of AP phytoplasma. Furthermore, the analysis of the species composition of the genus Cacopsylla present in apple orchards provides important information about the presence of other insect vectors potentially involved in spreading AP or other diseases. During an intensive monitoring program realized in the valleys of Val Venosta and Burggraviato (South Tyrol, Italy), the hotspots of apple proliferation epidemics, over 13,000 Cacopsylla individuals were captured and the occurrence of 16 species of the genus Cacopsylla was confirmed. The presence of C. picta was recorded in more than 50% of the investigated apple orchards and the natural infection rate of this vector was about 21% in a three-year average. Conversely, C. melanoneura was confirmed in more than 90% of the investigated sites but its low infection rate of about 1 % further supports that it plays a rather secondary role in spreading AP phytoplasma in South Tyrol.