Rapid and noninvasive diagnostics of Huanglongbing and nutrient deficits on citrus trees with a handheld Raman spectrometer.
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Huanglongbing (HLB) or citrus greening is a devastating disease of citrus trees that is caused by the gram-negative Candidatus Liberibacter spp. bacteria. The bacteria are phloem limited and transmitted by the Asian citrus psyllid, Diaphorina citri, and the African citrus psyllid, Trioza erytreae, which allows for a wider dissemination of HLB. Infected trees exhibit yellowing of leaves, premature leaf and fruit drop, and ultimately the death of the entire plant. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and antibody-based assays (ELISA and/or immunoblot) are commonly used methods for HLB diagnostics. However, they are costly, time-consuming, and destructive to the sample and often not sensitive enough to detect the pathogen very early in the infection stage. Raman spectroscopy (RS) is a noninvasive, nondestructive, analytical technique which provides insight into the chemical structures of a specimen. In this study,by using a handheld Raman system in combination with chemometric analyses, we can readily distinguish between healthy and HLB (early and late stage)-infected citrus trees, as well as plants suffering from nutrient deficits. The detection rate of Raman-based diagnostics of healthy vs HLB infected vs nutrient deficit is ~98% for grapefruit and ~87% for orange trees, whereas the accuracy of early- vs late-stage HLB infected is 100% for grapefruits and ~94% for oranges. This analysis is portable and sample agnostic, suggesting that it could be utilized for other crops and conducted autonomously. Graphical abstract.