The leafhopper Scaphoideus titanus is the primary vector of Flavescence dorée phytoplasma (FDp) in European vineyards. Flavescence dorée is one of the most severely damaging diseases of Vitis vinifera and, consequently, a major threat to grape and wine production in several European countries. Control measures are compulsory, but they mainly involve large-scale insecticide treatments, with detrimental impacts on the environment. One possible solution is to exploit the largely unexplored genetic diversity of viruses infecting S. titanus as highly specific and environmentally benign tools for biological control. (2) Methods:
A metatranscriptomic approach was adopted to identify viruses that may infect individuals caught in the wild in both its native (United States) and invasive (Europe) areas. Reverse transcription PCR was used to confirm their presence in RNA pools and explore their prevalence. (3) Results:
We described nine new RNA viruses, including members of “Picorna-Calici”, “Permutotetra”, “Bunya-Arena”, “Reo”, “Partiti-Picobirna”, “Luteo-Sobemo” and “Toti-Chryso” clades. A marked difference in the diversity and abundance of the viral species was observed between the USA population and the European ones. (4) Conclusions:
This work represents the first survey to assess the viral community of a phytoplasma insect vector. The possibility to exploit these naturally occurring viruses as specific and targeted biocontrol agents of S. titanus
could be the answer to increasing demand for a more sustainable viticulture.
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