Phytoplasmas and their insect vectors: Implications for date palm

Geoffrey Gurr, Assunta Bertaccini, David Gopurenko, Robert Krueger, Khalid A. Alhudaib, Jian Liu, Murray Fletcher

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Phytoplasmas are transmitted chiefly by insects, most commonly planthoppers and leafhoppers. Molecular genetic analyses have improved the understanding of phytoplasma taxonomy, and also enhanced the ability to identify phytoplasmas detected in hosts and insect vectors. Date palm is affected by Al-Wijam disease in Saudi Arabia and molecularly indistinguishable phytoplasmas (16SrI group) were recovered from affected palms and from Cicadulina bipunctata, an insect commonly found on the palms. The phytoplasma that is associated with the lethal yellowing disease in coconut palm (16SrIV-A) can also infect date palm. In the Americas lethal yellowing is likely to be transmitted by Haplaxius crudus (formerly Myndus crudus). Texas phoenix decline is reported from warm regions of South-East USA and may be transmitted by two species of Derbidae. Phytoplasmas belonging to the 16SrIV-F and 16SrXIV groups have also been identified from date palm growing in the USA and Africa respectively, though vectors have not been identified. Preventing spread in infected vegetative planting material and of vectors is key to limiting the impact of phytoplasma diseases. Management in affected areas can use antibiotics on high value trees, but this is not economical for extensive crops. In these situations, vector control by insecticide use or habitat management can be useful, but the long lifespan of individual palms means that even low vector pressure can lead to infection over successive years. The development of resistant varieties and replanting is the most effective long-term approach developed so far for phytoplasma disease management in this plant species.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSustainable pest management in date palm
Subtitle of host publicationCurrent status and emerging challenges
EditorsWaqas Wakil, Jose Romeno Faleiro, Thomas A. Miller
Place of PublicationSwitzerland
Number of pages28
ISBN (Electronic)9783319243979
ISBN (Print)9783319243955
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Publication series

Name Sustainability in plant and crop protection


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