The incidence and transmissibility of Flavescence dorée phytoplasma (FDP) in populations of the vector Scaphoideus titanus Ball (Homoptera: Cicadellidae) were investigated by periodically collecting nymphs and adults of the leafhopper species in four vineyards with high incidence of Flavescence dorée (FD)-diseased grapevines. Insects were tested individually for FDP with an ELISA procedure, after transmission assays to broadbean seedlings and further transmission to grapevine cuttings. No transmission occurred when early or middle instar nymphs were used to inoculate broadbeans, although a limited number of fifth-instar nymphs and young adults transmitted the pathogen to broadbean seedlings. However, the same batches of insects transmitted FDP more efficiently to grapevine cuttings during prolonged inoculation periods, confirming the existence of a latent period before infected insects become infective. The proportions of ELISA-positive individuals in the three categories of insects used for transmission assays reflected the rate of FDP transmission to grapevine cuttings. According to the data obtained by ELISA and from field sampling of first-instar nymphs, we adapted the proportions of nymph hatching, of infected leafhoppers, and of infective leafhoppers (assuming a conservative latent period in the vector of 30 days) to logistic models as a function of degree-days. We then discussed the possible use of the model developed for improving vector control decisions in FD-infected vineyards.
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