Publication Details

The emergence of beech leaf disease in Ohio: Probing the plant microbiome in search of the cause

Publication Toolbox

  • Download PDF (779.0 KB)
  • This publication is available only online.
Burke, David J.; Hoke, Adam J.; Koch, Jennifer

Year Published



Forest Pathology


American beech (Fagus grandifolia) is the target of a newly emerging disease in North America called beech leaf disease (BLD) that affects and disfigures leaves and which can lead to tree mortality. Beech leaf disease may be caused by a newly recognized subspecies of the anguinid nematode Litylenchus crenatae subsp. mccannii, but the associations of this nematode with bacterial and fungal taxa are unknown. We examined microbial communities associated with beech leaves affected by BLD in a 16-year-old American beech plantation using molecular methods. We detected L. crenatae subsp. mccannii in anywhere from 45% to 90% of leaves depending on the degree of visual BLD symptoms. Approximately 37% of asymptomatic leaves contained L. crenatae subsp. mccannii, whereas 90% of buds associated with symptomatic leaves contained L. crenatae subsp. mccannii. We found that fungal communities on leaves and buds were unaffected by BLD, but bud and leaves had significantly different fungal communities. Bacterial communities on buds also were unaffected by BLD, but bacterial communities were significantly different between symptomatic and asymptomatic leaves suggesting that the nematode could be altering the community of bacteria on the leaves. Clone libraries indicate that Wolbachia, an intracellular endosymbiont of arthropods, was found only on symptomatic leaves and buds associated with either symptomatic or asymptomatic leaves. In addition, only symptomatic leaves contained taxa in the genus Mucilaginibacter, which previous studies suggest could produce exopolysaccharides. These bacterial taxa could represent a marker for the vector of L. crenatae subsp. mccannii that enables spread between trees and a possible endosymbiont that could facilitate nematode feeding and establishment on nematode infested leaves. Our results are the first to examine changes to the leaf microbiome of this newly emerging pest and may aid identification of mechanisms associated with the spread and success of L. crenatae subsp. mccanni.


bacteria; beech leaf disease; Fagus grandifolia; fungi; leaf nematodes; Litylenchus crenatae subsp. mccannii; plant microbiome


Burke, David J.; Hoke, Adam J.; Koch, Jennifer. 2020. The emergence of beech leaf disease in Ohio: Probing the plant microbiome in search of the cause. Forest Pathology. 50(2): e12579. 12 p.

Last updated on: April 29, 2020