Zinc treatment increases the titre of ‘CandidatusLiberibacter asiaticus’ in huanglongbing-affected citrus plants while affecting the bacterial microbiomes

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Huanglongbing (HLB)-affected citrus often display zinc deficiency symptoms. In this study, supplemental zinc was applied to citrus to determine its effect on Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (Las) titre, HLB symptoms, and leaf microbiome.

Methods and Results:

HLB-affected citrus were treated with various amounts of zinc. The treatments promoted Las growth and affected microbiomes in citrus leaves. Phylochip™-based results indicated that 5475 of over 50 000 known Operational Taxonomic Units (OTUs) in 52 phyla were detected in the midribs of HLB-affected citrus, of which Proteobacteria was the most abundant, followed by Firmicutes and Actinobacteria. In comparison, the microbiomes of zinc-treated diseased plants had overall more OTUs with higher amounts of Proteobacteria, but decreased percentages of Firmicutes and Actinobacteria. In addition, more OTUs of siderophore-producing bacteria were present. Only zinc-sensitive Staphylococcaceae had higher OTU's in the diseased plants without zinc treatments.


Although HLB-affected citrus appear zinc deficient, zinc amendments increased the pathogen levels and shifted the microbiome.

Significance and Impact of the Study:

HLB is currently the most devastating disease of citrus worldwide. Zinc is often applied to HLB-affected citrus due to zinc deficiency symptoms. This study provided new insights into the potential effects of zinc on HLB and the microbial ecology of citrus.

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