, Volume 96, Issue 10, pp 1169–1176 | Cite as

Recilia banda Kramer (Hemiptera: Cicadellidae), a vector of Napier stunt phytoplasma in Kenya

  • Evans Obura
  • Charles A. O. Midega
  • Daniel Masiga
  • John A. Pickett
  • Mohamed Hassan
  • Shinsaku Koji
  • Zeyaur R. Khan


Napier grass (Pennisetum purpureum) is the most important fodder crop in smallholder dairy production systems in East Africa, characterized by small zero-grazing units. It is also an important trap crop used in the management of cereal stemborers in maize in the region. However, production of Napier grass in the region is severely constrained by Napier stunt disease. The etiology of the disease is known to be a phytoplasma, 16SrXI strain. However, the putative insect vector was yet unknown. We sampled and identified five leafhopper and three planthopper species associated with Napier grass and used them as candidates in pathogen transmission experiments. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR), based on the highly conserved 16S gene, primed by P1/P6-R16F2n/R16R2 nested primer sets was used to diagnose phytoplasma on test plants and insects, before and after transmission experiments. Healthy plants were exposed for 60 days to insects that had fed on diseased plants and acquired phytoplasma. The plants were then incubated for another 30 days. Nested PCR analyses showed that 58.3% of plants exposed to Recilia banda Kramer (Hemiptera: Cicadellidae) were positive for phytoplasma and developed characteristic stunt disease symptoms while 60% of R. banda insect samples were similarly phytoplasma positive. We compared the nucleotide sequences of the phytoplasma isolated from R. banda, Napier grass on which these insects were fed, and Napier grass infected by R. banda, and found them to be virtually identical. The results confirm that R. banda transmits Napier stunt phytoplasma in western Kenya, and may be the key vector of Napier stunt disease in this region.


Napier stunt disease Phytoplasma Vector Recilia banda Western Kenya 



We acknowledge the taxonomic assistance from Dr. Mike Wilson of the National Museum of Wales, UK and Dr. Tadashi Ishikawa of Tokyo University of Agriculture, Japan. We thank the staff at Molecular Biology and Biotechnology Department of icipe for their valuable support and input and SegoliLab, International Livestock Research Institute, Nairobi Kenya for DNA sequencing. The work was supported by funds from the Kilimo Trust, East Africa and the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, UK, and was conducted in collaboration with Rothamsted Research, UK, which receives grant-aided support from BBSRC.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Evans Obura
    • 1
  • Charles A. O. Midega
    • 1
  • Daniel Masiga
    • 1
  • John A. Pickett
    • 2
  • Mohamed Hassan
    • 1
  • Shinsaku Koji
    • 3
  • Zeyaur R. Khan
    • 1
  1. 1.International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE)NairobiKenya
  2. 2.HarpendenHertfordshireUK
  3. 3.Kanazawa UniversityIshikawaJapan

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