Genetic diversity of phytoplasma strains infecting chrysanthemum varieties in India and their possible natural reservoirs.
Symptoms typical of phytoplasma infection such as phyllody, virescence, witches' broom and yellowing were observed in 12 varieties of Chrysanthemum morifolium in floral nurseries and experimental fields at New Delhi, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, India, during surveys made from 2015 to 2017. Disease incidence ranged from 15 to 30%. Phytoplasma presence was confirmed in all symptomatic chrysanthemum varieties by molecular identification assays. Sequence comparison, phylogenetic and in silico RFLP analyses of 16S rDNA sequences allowed the identification of the chrysanthemum infecting phytoplasma strains into different ribosomal groups and subgroups, namely 16SrI, 16SrII-D, 16SrVI-D and 16SrXIV. Detection of phytoplasma strains of 16SrII-D subgroup were also confirmed in symptomatic Chenopodium album and Parthenium hysterophorus plants grown in and around the surveyed chrysanthemum fields at New Delhi, whereas 16SrVI-D phytoplasma strains were detected in symptomatic Cannabis sativa weed and leafhopper Hishimonus phycitis individuals collected from the symptomatic chrysanthemum fields at New Delhi. This is the first report on the presence of 16SrVI and 16SrXIV groups of phytoplasmas in chrysanthemum plants. Studies on genetic diversity of phytoplasmas infecting the major chrysanthemum varieties in India and their epidemiological aspects had previously not been reported. The detection and identification of phytoplasmas in different chrysanthemum varieties could contribute to increase the awareness among farmers in the management of these diseases.