Probabilistic risk-based model for the assessment of Phyllosticta citricarpa-infected citrus fruit and illicit plant material as pathways for pathogen introduction and establishment
Citrus Black Spot (CBS), caused by the ascomycete, Phyllosticta citricarpa, is a fruit, foliar, and twig spotting fungal disease affecting the majority of commercial cultivars of citrus. The disease causes cosmetic lesions, may cause fruit drop and P. citricarpa is considered a quarantine pathogen by some countries, impacting domestic and international trade of citrus fruit. Regulatory requirements affecting fruit trade exist even though there is no documented case of disease spread via infected fruit into previously disease-free areas. To clarify the risk of fruit as a potential pathway for the spread of CBS, we developed a quantitative, probabilistic risk assessment model. The model provides an assessment of all steps in the fruit pathway, including production, packinghouse handling, transportation, export-import distribution channels, and consumer endpoints. The model is stochastic and uses Monte Carlo simulation to assess the risk of P. citricarpa moving through all steps in the pathway. We attempted to use all available literature and information to quantitate risk at each point in the potential pathway and by sequentially linking all steps to determine the overall quantitative risk. In addition, we assessed climatological effects on incidence of diseased fruit at production sites and on fungal reproduction and infection, as well as criteria for establishment at endpoints. We examined ten case studies between exporting and importing loca-tions/countries. Model results indicated fruit to be an epidemiologically insignificant means for CBS spread, even between producing countries where CBS occurs and CBS-free importing countries with disease-conducive cli-mates. We created a second model to examine the introduction of infected plant material from countries where CBS occurs. This model demonstrated significant probability of introduction via such infected material. However, pathogen establishment and disease development was still restricted only to areas with conducive climatological conditions. We created a tool to quantitatively explore the viability of various potential pathways via combi-nations of CBS-present production sites and corresponding pathway endpoints, including environments condu-cive and non-conducive to CBS. The tool is provided to aid decision makers on phytosanitary risk relative to international trade of citrus fruit.