The overarching goal of this research is to obtain information about the vector transmission of Grapevine leafroll-associated virus 3 (GLRaV-3), the primary virus species associated with spread of the economically damaging Grapevine Leafroll Disease (GLD) in Napa Valley. Such information is necessary to inform control strategies; it is clear that knowledge-based management of vector-borne diseases requires a robust understanding of how the pathogen spreads in vineyards. Mealybugs are the vectors associated with spread of GLD, but little is known about differences in transmission efficiency among mealybug species inhabiting vines in California. Furthermore, genetically distinct variants of GLRaV-3 exist but nothing is known about differences among these variants in terms of their ability to spread, or what the relevance of that variation is to GLD epidemiology. In addition, all previous GLRaV-3 transmission studies were done under greenhouse conditions, and it is not known how well the results of such studies predict transmission in vineyards. Lastly, there is no information on the consequences of insect-inoculated GLRaV-3 into plants in the field. This research addresses these significant gaps in knowledge.
We have completed all proposed experimental GLRaV-3 inoculations in greenhouse and field trials, using grape and vine mealybugs. Molecular diagnosis of test plants is ongoing. Though two GLRaV3 variants from singly infected source plants did not differ in transmission efficiency, the transmission efficiency of one variant was substantially lower when acquisition occurred from a coinfected source plant, indicating competition between variants. This may mean that one variant can be transmitted more efficiently than another and increase its incidence in the landscape (e.g. Napa Valley). It is not known whether some GLRaV-3 variants are more pathogenic than others.
We also set up experiments in Napa Valley in 2011 and 2012. Each vine was inoculated using 10 first instar mealybugs, and then treated with insecticide two days later. In 2011, we inoculated 60 mature vines cv Cabernet Franc, using grape mealybugs. Twenty vines tested positive for GLRaV3 three months after inoculations. Symptoms appeared in June of the following year, and there were 29 symptomatic vines by July. The following year, the same 29 vines were symptomatic by May and tested positive for GLRaV-3. Berry quality was affected in symptomatic vines just one year after inoculations. This is the first time it has been shown that GLD symptoms due to mealybug inoculation of GLRaV-3 into established mature vines (~15 years old) in commercial vineyards are expressed in the following growing season. Results also showed that the entire vines were symptomatic in 2012, instead of just the inoculation site. Lastly, transmission success in the field was about 6%per individual mealybug.