Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Agriculture - Plant Protection Science


Horticulture and Crop Science


Michael Costello


This project was designed to correlate environmental variables with the development of Pierce’s Disease (PD), an infection caused by the gram negative bacterium Xylella fastidiosa (Xf), in grapes (Hopkins et al. 2002). PD is one of the most difficult crop pathogens to manage because it is vectored by insects and its continued presence in the vine is usually fatal. PD is influenced by the interaction of host, disease and vector, and probably many other environmental variables. The general objective was to study and identify the most important variables involved in the expression of Pierce’s Disease.

Over a two year period, from a total of eight sites in northern and southern California data was collected on forty-five environmental variables including those relating to soil moisture, soil chemistry, soil nutritional status, vine nutritional status, vine water status, in-season and dormant season climate, incidence of Xf in adjacent vineyard vegetation, sharpshooter species and abundance at each location, and proximity of vineyard field sites to citrus or riparian areas.

The environmental variables were analyzed with canonical correspondence analysis (CCA) to determine significance of each as they correspond with increased disease severity. The significance of environmental variables produced by CCA indicates increased soil moisture as the leading cause for increased PD incidence; several other environmental variables positively correlate with increased disease presence. Conversely, vineyard factors identified by CCA as not conducive to disease formation may play an inhibitory role in PD severity.

We undertook polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to test for the presence of PD in vegetative samples, using a 733 base pair probe specific to Xf. These samples indicate alternative hosts in adjacent locations which act as reservoirs of Pierce’s Disease as well as verifying diseased vines within the vineyard locations.