FIGHToplasma – Population genomics of factors influencing Phytoplasma transmission

Funded by:

Autonomous Province of Bolzano/Bozen-South Tyrol – Department of Science & Research – Joint Projects


Aim of the Project:

Phytoplasmas are bacteria that colonise the phloem of various plants and cause hundreds of diseases in crops, trees and ornamental plants worldwide. Theoretically, all phloem-sucking insects could transmit phytoplasmas, but only a limited number of species have been confirmed as vectors. There is a complex association between the insect vector, the host plant and the phytoplasma itself. Apple sweep (AP) is a disease caused by the phytoplasma 'Candidatus Phytoplasma mali' ('Ca. P. Mali'), which causes the proliferation of auxiliary shoots ('witches' broom') and a decrease in fruit size and quality. Infected apple trees cannot be cured and the only way to limit the spread of the disease is to uproot infected trees. The insect genus Cacopsylla includes vectors and non-vectors of phytoplasma. Knowledge of the factors influencing the transmission efficiency of 'Ca. P. mali' is currently scarce. Cacopsylla is therefore of interest to study the interaction of various factors involved in phytoplasma transmission. In this project, we will determine whether the acquisition and transmission of AP depends on the genotype of the insect vector Cacopsylla melanoneura, the microbial community of the vector and/or the phytoplasma strain. Our results will provide new insights into the complex biology of Ca. P. mali'.

Project Duration:

01.03.2020 - 31.12.2023

Project Team:

The FIGHToplasma project involves an interdisciplinary approach and close collaboration between the partners involved.


Video of the project: Italian or Deutch.


Lead Partner - Free Universy of Bozen

  • Dr. Hannes Schuler - (Project Leader)
  • Dr. Erika Corretto - (Project Collaborator)

    Laimburg Research Centre



  • Dr. Katrin Janik, - General Project Leader
  • Agnese Martinelli, – "Scientific Communication" Group (Project Communication)
  • Federico Fava, – "Project Management" Group (Project Management)

    University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU, Vienna)


  • Christian Stauffer, Christian.Stauffer(at) – (Project Leader)

    Ex collaborators:

  • Dr. Massimiliano Trenti – Project collaborator