Study Finds HLB-Infected Citrus Prime Spot For Species To Communicate, Play Tricks

According to a new University of Florida study, four separate species are communicating with and sometimes tricking each other around a scent produced by greening-infected citrus.

Communication between species is common but almost always is described between two or three species, said Lukasz Stelinski, associate professor of entomology and nematology at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center (CREC) in Lake Alfred.

Asian citrus psyllid
Asian citrus psyllid

Stelinski wanted to know how a fourth species, in this case, a wasp, would vary this interaction — a probe that may be one of the few cases where species at four levels of the food chain use one odor to communicate with, and exploit, each other.
Stelinski’s team found that wasps and psyllids are both attracted to the odor emitted by an infected citrus tree. This olfactory cue may then help wasps find and prey on the psyillid by “eavesdropping” on the odor exchanged between bacteria, citrus trees, and the psyllid.
The findings were published online by Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.

Here’s how the interaction works: When host citrus trees are infected, they emit an odor, Stelinski said. That odor, methyl salicylate, makes them smell more appealing to the vector, the Asian citrus psyllid. Lured by scent, the tiny insect goes to the infected tree, searching for sap to snack on.
The hungry psyllid is attracted to the infected tree, even though pathogen-infected trees are less nutritious to psyllids than healthy ones. “This may be a mechanism, among many, that encourages the spread of the pathogen,” Stelinski said.
Stelinski’s team brought a wildcard, a wasp, into the mix because it’s a natural psyllid enemy. They wondered whether the wasp also is attracted to the methyl salicylate, as it hunts for psyllids to eat. So they put wasps in an olfactometer, a Y-shaped device that delivers two opposing air flows, each carrying a different odor.
The wasps could fly toward methyl salicylate or to a control odor, limonene, another compound produced by citrus trees. The wasps were strongly attracted by the pathogen-induced scent. They later learned the wasp was more likely to attack psyllids on greening-infected plants or methyl salicylate-treated plants rather than healthy plants.

“Biologically, we think it’s very interesting,” Stelinski said. “You to have to look at multiple levels of the food chain. The pathogen is manipulating the plant to attract the good guy and the bad guy. The finding makes the tree look like a beacon in a sea of uninfected trees.”

Stelinksi wrote the paper with Xavier Martini, a postdoctoral associate and Kirsten Pelz-Stelinksi, an associate professor of entomology, both at CREC.

Topics: ,

Leave a Reply

Citrus Stories

CitrusFarming Is Quite The Scary Prospect For Some [Opinion]
September 30, 2014
Florida Grower managing editor Paul Rusnak says economic realities might frighten off future leaders from noble professions. Read More
CitrusFlorida Announces Its 2014 Woman Of The Year In Agriculture
September 29, 2014
Longtime award recognizes women who have made outstanding contributions to the state’s farming sector. Read More
CitrusFlorida Produce Industry Embracing Progress, Confronting Challenges
September 29, 2014
Production pressures and politics hot topics at FFVA’s 71st Annual Convention. Read More
CitrusFlorida Farmers Finding Ways To Cultivate An Environment Of Excellence [Opinion]
September 26, 2014
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam salutes producers putting their best management practices forward. Read More
CitrusGrowers Should Partner Wisely To Stay Afloat Amid WOTUS Woes [Opinion]
September 26, 2014
According to Florida Grower editor Frank Giles, the Clean Water Act is muddying waters for farmers. Read More
Varieties & RootstocksSimplifying Progressive Citrus Propagation Process A Priority
September 25, 2014
Stakeholders work rapidly to smooth out any kinks in the FAST TRACK. Read More
CitrusPolitics Creating More Work In Farm Management Field
September 24, 2014
Paul Meador of Everglades Harvesting Co. says an immigration reform resolution can't come soon enough. Read More

The Latest

CitrusFarming Is Quite The Scary Prospect For Some [Opinion]
September 30, 2014
Florida Grower managing editor Paul Rusnak says economic realities might frighten off future leaders from noble professions. Read More
CitrusFlorida Announces Its 2014 Woman Of The Year In Agricul…
September 29, 2014
Longtime award recognizes women who have made outstanding contributions to the state’s farming sector. Read More
CitrusFlorida Produce Industry Embracing Progress, Confrontin…
September 29, 2014
Production pressures and politics hot topics at FFVA’s 71st Annual Convention. Read More
CitrusFlorida Farmers Finding Ways To Cultivate An Environmen…
September 26, 2014
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam salutes producers putting their best management practices forward. Read More
CitrusGrowers Should Partner Wisely To Stay Afloat Amid WOTUS…
September 26, 2014
According to Florida Grower editor Frank Giles, the Clean Water Act is muddying waters for farmers. Read More
CitrusPolitics Creating More Work In Farm Management Field
September 24, 2014
Paul Meador of Everglades Harvesting Co. says an immigration reform resolution can't come soon enough. Read More
CitrusUF/IFAS Names New Dean Of Research
September 24, 2014
Longtime citrus scientist Jackie Burns takes lead post. Read More
CitrusMajor Florida Citrus Planting Incentive Program Announc…
September 23, 2014
Citrus World Inc. plans to invest $10 million to encourage new acreage. Read More
CitrusNational Farmers Union Submits Comments On Clean Water …
September 23, 2014
Organization urges other industry groups to submit constructive comments. Read More
CitrusLuke Bryan Pays It Forward For Farming
September 23, 2014
Country superstar honors agriculture with his Farm Tour. Read More
CitrusNew Superhero Aims To Save Florida Citrus
September 22, 2014
Unique marketing partnership comes to life through comics. Read More
CitrusFDA Announces Cooperative Agreement To Implement Nation…
September 17, 2014
Agreement will provide information to help plan and carry out the produce safety rule in partnership with state regulatory agencies. Read More
CitrusFMC Acquires Cheminova
September 9, 2014
Transaction expected to close in early 2015. Read More
CitrusSouth Florida Wet Season Receives Slight Respite
September 9, 2014
Reports indicate most areas around the region received below average rainfall during August. Read More
CitrusWhole Farm Revenue Protection Adds Up For Crop Insuranc…
September 4, 2014
New USDA program to provide coverage for all agricultural commodities. Read More
CitrusUniversity Of Florida’s Class Of 2018 Raises The Bar …
September 4, 2014
Arriving College Of Agriculture And Life Sciences students bring strong credentials and diversity. Read More
CitrusFlorida Citrus Growers, Beekeepers Deal Proving To Be B…
September 3, 2014
EPA encourages further promotion and partnership in similar voluntary programs across the country. Read More
CitrusHarness The Marketing Power Of Video
September 1, 2014
Multimedia platform is an effective and inexpensive marketing tool for you to attract new customers and keep existing ones loyal to your brand. Read More