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Thousand Cankers Disease (TCD) of Juglans and Pterocarya (Juglandaceae) involves a fungal pathogen, Geosmithia morbida, and a primary insect vector, Pityophthorus juglandis. TCD was described originally from dying Juglans nigra trees in the western United States (USA), but it was reported subsequently from the eastern USA and northern Italy. The disease is often difficult to diagnose due to the absence of symptoms or signs on the bark surface of the host. Furthermore, disease symptoms can be confused with those caused by other biotic and abiotic agents. Thus, there is a critical need for a method for rapid detection of the pathogen and vector of TCD. Using species-specific microsatellite DNA markers, we developed a molecular protocol for the detection of G. morbida and P. juglandis. To demonstrate the utility of the method for delineating TCD quarantine zones, we tested whether geographical occurrence of symptoms and signs of TCD was correlated with molecular evidence for the presence of the cryptic TCD organisms. A total of 1600 drill cores were taken from branch sections collected from three regions (n = 40 trees for each location): California-J. hindsii (heavy disease incidence); Tennessee-J. nigra (mild disease incidence); and outside the known TCD zone (Missouri-J. nigra, no record of the disease). California samples had the highest incidence of the TCD organisms (85%, 34/40). Tennessee had intermediate incidence (42.5%, 17/40), whereas neither organism was detected in samples from Missouri. The low cost molecular protocol developed here has a high degree of sensitivity and specificity, and it significantly reduces sample-processing time, making the protocol a powerful tool for rapid detection of TCD.


This article was published openly thanks to the University of Tennessee Open Publishing Support Fund.

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