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Non-invasive diagnostics of Liberibacter disease on tomatoes using a hand-held Raman spectrometer


Main conclusion

Hand-held Raman spectroscopy can be used for confirmatory, non-invasive and non-destructive detection and identification of two haplotypes of Liberibacter disease on tomatoes. Using this spectroscopic approach, structural changes in carotenoids, xylan, cellulose and pectin that are associ-ated with this bacterial disease can be determined.


Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum’ (Lso) is a phloem-limited Gram-negative bacterium that infects crops worldwide. In North America, two haplotypes of Lso (LsoA and LsoB) are transmitted by the potato psyllid, Bactericera cockerelli (Sulč), and infect many solanaceous crops such as potato and tomato. Infected plants exhibit chlorosis, severe stunting, leaf cupping, and scorching. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and potato tuber frying are commonly used methods for diagnostics of the plant disease caused by Lso. However, they are time-consuming, costly, destructive to the sample, and often not sensitive enough to detect the pathogen in the early infection stage. Raman spectroscopy (RS) is a noninvasive, nondestructive, analytical technique, which probes chemical composition of analyzed samples. In this study, we demonstrate that Lso infection can be diagnosed by non-invasive spectroscopic analysis of tomato leaves three weeks following infection, before the development of aerial symptoms. In combination with chemometric analyses, Raman spectroscopy allows for 80% accurate diagnostics of Liberibacter disease caused by each of the two different haplotypes. This diagnostics approach is portable and sample agnostic, suggesting that it could be utilized for other crops and could be conducted autonomously.

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This study was supported by funds from Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Texas A&M University Governor’s University Research Initiative (GURI) grant program of (12-2016/M1700437) (DK) and T3 grant from Texas A&M University (DK and CT), Texas A&M AgriLife Research (Controlling Exotic and Invasive Insect-Transmitted Pathogens) (CT) and Hatch project TEX0-1-9381 Accession Number 1015773. Xiaotian Tang received the Herb Dean’40 Endowed Scholarship from the Department of Entomology at Texas A&M University.

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Correspondence to Dmitry Kurouski.

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Communicated by Anastasios Melis.

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Sanchez, L., Ermolenkov, A., Tang, X. et al. Non-invasive diagnostics of Liberibacter disease on tomatoes using a hand-held Raman spectrometer. Planta 251, 64 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00425-020-03359-5

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  • Raman spectroscopy
  • Diagnostics
  • Liberibacter disease
  • Tomatoes