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Phytoplasms: The Most Common Cause Of Plant Death

by Kristina Kaye Maglabe

PhytoplasmsPhytoplasmas are the main cause of plant death. More than 600 plant diseases are cause by these organisms and it affects both insects and plants. This is due to the transplanting and pollination that happens between plants and insects. Phytoplasmas are prokaryotes and are also classified as an obligate intracellular organism.

They can be classified as a bacterium that has no walls and got reduced further in the evolution. They are gram positive eubacteria.

Phtyoplasmas are almost the same size as mycoplams and are smaller than E. Coli. Mycoplasms are sometimes mistaken for phytoplasma. They are of different classifications and structures.

Due to phytoplasma, plants can experience yellowing and reddening among leaves and flowers. Delayed development may occur due to the parasitic nature of phytoplasma. Necrosis may happen and will eventually lead to cell death. Witches broom is a common disease caused by phytoplasma. Plant death occurs if the whole plant is infected. The reduced size of the foliage and other parts of the plant can also be caused by phytoplasma.

Apples are affected by these and rapevines suffered much loss due to some infestations in the past. This can hurt the economic situation of many farms and countries. Vegetation plays one of the most important roles in any economic structure. Production of food is very essential. Failing to provide enough food in an area will cause devastation. Crop infestation can cause not only physical starvation, but economic demise as well. Most infestation became so severe that some countries succumb to starvation in the past.

These phytoplasmas are transferred by different vectors: insects, birds or the air. They come from one plant, transferred to a vector, mostly by the mouth. Since these vectors can pass from one plant to another, the phytoplasmas get transferred as well. These can be passed by the vectors saliva and most common vectors are the leaf hoppers.

To protect plants from phytoplasmas, use pesticides to minimize the vectors. Remove the infected area to prevent it from spreading. Destroy the infected parts so that any other vector will not have further access to it. A strategic planting position can also be used to prevent insects from being attracted.

The sieve in the cells is where the phytoplasmas live and reproduce. The sieve is found in the phloem tissue on a plant. Phytoplasmas infect a plant on a cellular level.  Since it is a parasitic organism, it attacks the plant by absorbing the nutrition. It attaches itself to a cell and starts to destroy what is in it. The hosts lose the nutrients and will eventually decay and die, causing diseases from the inside.

Phytoplasmas are known for its destructive nature. Steps must be taken in order to protect the plants and other vegetative organisms. Countries have been researching ways in to have a better understanding of phytoplasmas. This is preventive measure in ensuring that famine will not occur.