Science new evidence and solutions to the Xylella dilemma

The pest under the spotlight at major EU conferences in Ajaccio

30 October, 16:09

    (ANSAmed) - AJACCIO, 30 OTT - From 2012 to 2017, the Xylella fastidiosa severely damaged about 6.5 million olive trees in Apulia, according to new EU estimates. Over 350 scientists, institutional representatives, and stakeholders discussed those figures and took stock of the knowledge on the bacterium at the second Conference on Xylella fastidiosa of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA, in Ajaccio. From 28 to 30 October, the Corsica capital was the center of the EU reflection on new plant pests, and Xylella fastidiosa was under the spotlight. A joint study of the Joint Research Center of the Commission and EFSA ranks the parasite detected for the first time in 2013 by the researchers of the Institute for sustainable plant protection (IPSP) of the CNR of Bari as the number one for the potential impact in economic, social and environmental terms in Europe.

    In Ajaccio, the final seminar of the research project Ponte took place. Between 2015 and 2019, the EU funded Ponte program involved 25 organizations from Europe and third countries to investigate Xylella and other new pests. Ponte allowed testing early detection methods and resistant olive varieties on the field in Apulia. The work on olives tolerant to the infection will go ahead in the EU funded XF-Actors project. Researchers discussed preliminary results at the EFSA conference, which started on 29 October. According to a study from Wageningen University, in Greece, Italy, and Spain, the economic impact of Xylella fastidiosa to olive growers alone (olive oil industry excluded) could reach € 9 billion in 50 years. It would go down to € 4 billion if tolerant varieties are allowed.

    Regarding the control of Xylella, encouraging data arrive from California, where tests are ongoing on bacteria reducing the infection on the vine substantially. The researchers of the IPSP-CNR of Bari are experimenting with the same type of solutions on the olive. In Ajaccio, they also presented evidence that the Apulian strain of the bacterium does not infect the vine. "Since the first conference two years ago, the research has been expanding," EFSA Giuseppe Stancanelli says. "Today, we know much more about the vectors transmitting the pest, the development of the disease and its control," he adds.

    In recent years research also progressed on the range of subspecies and strains that have colonized various territories in Europe, with different impacts. In the years following 2013, scientists and decision-makers looked at Xylella fastidiosa as a single specimen. Now the situation is more complicated. Taking into account that, in the first months of 2020, the European Commission should propose to the EU countries new control measures on the pathogen. (ANSAmed).

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