BACKGROUND:DNA metabarcoding, commonly used in exploratory microbial ecology studies, is a promising method for the simultaneous in planta-detection of multiple pathogens associated with disease complexes, such as the grapevine trunk diseases. Profiling of pathogen communities associated with grapevine trunk diseases is particularly challenging, due to the presence within an individual wood lesion of multiple co-infecting trunk pathogens and other wood-colonizing fungi, which span a broad range of taxa in the fungal kingdom. As such, we designed metabarcoding primers, using as template the ribosomal internal transcribed spacer of grapevine trunk-associated ascomycete fungi (GTAA) and compared them to two universal primer widely used in microbial ecology. RESULTS:We first performed in silico simulations and then tested the primers by high-throughput amplicon sequencing of (i) multiple combinations of mock communities, (ii) time-course experiments with controlled inoculations, and (iii) diseased field samples from vineyards under natural levels of infection. All analyses showed that GTAA had greater affinity and sensitivity, compared to those of the universal primers. Importantly, with GTAA, profiling of mock communities and comparisons with shotgun-sequencing metagenomics of field samples gave an accurate representation of genera of important trunk pathogens, namely Phaeomoniella, Phaeoacremonium, and Eutypa, the abundances of which were over- or under-estimated with universal primers. CONCLUSIONS:Overall, our findings not only demonstrate that DNA metabarcoding gives qualitatively and quantitatively accurate results when applied to grapevine trunk diseases, but also that primer customization and testing are crucial to ensure the validity of DNA metabarcoding results.