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Project description

Development and application of a PCR-based detection method for predicting the incidence of beet curly top virus in leafhoppers and in tomato crops. (02DS019)
Program UC IPM competitive research grants program
R.L. Gilbertson, Plant Pathology, UC Davis
Host/habitat Tomatoes
Pest Beet Curly Top Virus (BCTV); Beet Leafhopper Circulifer tenellus
Disciplines Plant Pathology, Entomology
Decision Support
Start year (duration)  2002 (Three Years)
Objectives Characterize, on the molecular level, the beet curly top virus (BCTV) strains involved in recent curly top disease outbreaks in tomatoes.

Develop and apply a PCR-based detection method for BCTV in beet leafhoppers and evaluate this method as a tool to predict the incidence of BCTV in leafhoppers and tomato crops.

A rapid PCR-based method developed to detect the virus in the leafhopper vector has been developed and used to detect CTV in leafhoppers collected from the field. Monthly samples of leafhoppers, collected by personnel of the CTVCP, were tested for CTV. The results indicated that leafhoppers were carrying large amounts of virus early in the season, indicating that the insects are acquiring the virus from plants in the foothills areas, and that the level of virus decreased during the growing season. These results suggest that this approach will provide further insight into the ecology and epidemiology of the virus in California. Thus, use of these tools may allow for improved curly top management and reduced use of pesticides.

Curly top disease has plagued California vegetable and field crop (sugar beets) growers since the early 1900s. The disease is caused by at least three different plant viruses (Beet curly top virus [BCTV], Beet mild curly top virus [BMCTV] and Beet severe curly top virus [BSCTV]) that are transmitted by the beet leafhopper. Infected plants are stunted and have twisted and distorted leaves, and the disease can result in significant yield losses. Curly top is difficult to control, due to the migratory and unpredictable nature of the leafhopper and a lack of understanding of the ecology and the epidemiology of the virus. The CDFA conducts a Curly Top Control Program in which the foothill areas are sprayed with malathion to control the leafhopper vector. However, there is no determination of whether the leafhoppers are carrying the virus. We have developed molecular biology tools for the detection and identification of the curly top viruses in plants and in the leafhopper vector. Using these tools, we found that the predominant curly top virus in tomatoes in 2001 and 2002 was BMCTV, but that BSCTV was also involved in Fresno County. A rapid PCR-based method was developed to detect the virus in the leafhopper vector. During 2003, this method will be used to determine whether leafhoppers are carrying BMCTV in different locations and to evaluate whether this can be a predictor of disease incidence. The use of these tools may allow for improved curly top management and reduced use of pesticides.

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