USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) plant pathologists Richard F. Lee and Keremane L. Manjunath have developed a test that reveals whether Asian citrus psyllids are in fact carrying Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus, one of three microbial species thought to cause citrus greening.
Developed over the past several years and reported in a 2008 article in the journal Phytopathology, the test is being used today by plant health officials in the U.S. and elsewhere.
Assaying psyllids may provide a way to detect citrus greening disease up to two years before symptoms become apparent in afflicted plants, according to the scientists. They’re based at the ARS National Clonal Germplasm Repository for Citrus and Dates in Riverside, CA.
Though not the first to detect HLB in Asian citrus psyllids, the assay apparently still is one of the newest of its kind to be based on what’s known as “real-time qPCR” (short for “quantitative polymerase chain reaction”) technology. The test is comparatively quick and relatively inexpensive, and can be performed by technicians working in any of the labs across the country that already handle PCR assays.