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Phytoplasma diseases and their relationships with insect and plant hosts in Canadian horticultural and field crops

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 April 2012

Chrystel Y. Olivier*
Saskatoon Research Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 107 Science Place, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada S7N 0X2
D. Thomas Lowery
Summerland Research Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Highway 97, Summerland, British Columbia, Canada V0H 1Z0
Lorne W. Stobbs
Vineland Research Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 4902 Victoria Avenue North, Vineland, Ontario, Canada L0R 2E0
2Corresponding author (e-mail:


Phytoplasmas are bacterial plant pathogens consisting of more than 50 phylogenetic groups that cause devastating diseases in various crops worldwide. They are obligate parasites restricted to the phloem tissue of the host plant and are transmitted from plant to plant mostly by leafhoppers (Hemiptera: Cicadellidae). They reproduce within the tissues of their insect vectors and are transferred in the salivary secretions to new host plants during feeding. Phytoplasma epidemiology involves a tritrophic relationship between the pathogen and usually several hosts and vectors. The host-plant range depends on the number of vectors, their feeding habits, and their dispersal pattern. Interactions between phytoplasmas and their vector hosts are complex and influenced by insects' vectoring abilities and the consequences of infection for vectors. In Canada, seven phytoplasma taxa have been detected in various crops. Aster yellows, the primary vector of which is the leafhopper Macrosteles quadrilineatus (Forbes), is the most common and widespread. X-disease, transmitted by at least eight leafhopper species, is economically damaging to all cultivated species of Prunus L. (Rosaceae). Clover proliferation, also transmitted by M. quadrilineatus, is the causal agent of important diseases such as clover proliferation and alfalfa witches' broom. Ash yellows and pear decline have caused economic problems for several decades, while bois noir, a quarantinable disease in Canada, was detected in Ontario and British Columbia for the first time only recently. Because of their cryptic nature, phytoplasmas are difficult to manage; quarantine measures and insecticide sprays remain the most common control measures. However, integrated pest management techniques using beneficial insects, biotechnology, and plant resistance are emerging.


Les phytoplasmes sont des parasites stricts du phloème des plantes, responsables de plus de 300 maladies à travers le monde. Les phytoplasmes sont transmis par des hémiptères phloémophages, principalement des cicadelles (Hemiptera : Cicadellidae). Ils se reproduisent dans les organes de leurs insectes vecteurs et sont transmis aux plantes avec les sécretions salivaires de ces mêmes insectes. Les maladies à phytoplasmes sont les produits de relations tritrophiques entre les phytoplasmes et souvent, plusieurs plantes hôtes et insectes vecteurs. La gamme d'hôtes des phytoplasmes dépend du nombre de vecteurs, de leurs habitudes alimentaires et de leur capacité de dissémination. Les relations entre les phytoplasmes et leurs vecteurs sont complexes et dépendent de la capacité vectrice des insectes et des conséquences de l'infection du phytoplasme sur l'insecte vecteur. Au Canada, sept taxons ont été identifiés dans les grandes cultures et en horticulture, celui de la jaunisse de l'aster associé à l'insecte vecteur Macrosteles quadrilineatus (Forbes), étant le plus commun et le plus répandu. La maladie X du pêcher est transmise par au moins huit espèces de cicadelles et cause des dégats importants à toutes les espèces du genre Prunus L. (Rosaceae). Le phytoplasme de la prolifération du trèfle, transmise par M. quadrilineatus, est associé à des maladies économiquement importantes telles que la prolifération du trèfle et le balai de sorcière chez la luzerne. La jaunisse du frêne et le dépérissement du poirier continuent de causer des dégats économiques importants en Amérique du Nord, tandis que le bois noir, une maladie de quarantaine au Canada, a été détecté récemment dans des vignobles de la Colombie britannique et de l'Ontario. Les maladies à phytoplasmes sont difficiles à contrôler et les moyens de lutte les plus utilisés actuellement restent les mesures de quarantaine et les pulvérisations d'insecticides pour réduire les populations d'insectes vecteurs. Cependant, de nouvelles techniques de lutte, comprenant la lutte intégrée, les biotechnologies et la résistance des plantes, sont en cours de développement.

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