Acid Soil Improvement Enhances Disease Tolerance in Citrus Infected by Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus

      Huanglongbing (HLB) is a devastating citrus disease that has caused massive economic losses to the citrus industry worldwide. The disease is endemic in most citrus-producing areas of southern China, especially in the sweet orange orchards where soil acidification has intensified. In this work, we used lime as soil pH amendment to optimize soil pH and enhance the endurance capacity of citrus against Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas). The results showed that regulation of soil acidity is effective to reduce the occurrence of new infections and mitigate disease severity in the presence of HLB disease. We also studied the associated molecular mechanism and found that acid soil improvement can (i) increase the root metabolic activity and up-regulate the expression of ion transporter-related genes in HLB-infected roots, (ii) alleviate the physiological disorders of sieve tube blockage of HLB-infected leaves, (iii) strengthen the citrus immune response by increasing the expression of genes involved in SAR and activating the salicylic acid signal pathway, (iv) up-regulate 55 proteins related to stress/defence response and secondary metabolism. This study contributes to a better understanding of the correlation between environment factors and HLB disease outbreaks and also suggests that acid soil improvement is of potential value for the management of HLB disease in southern China.