Overview of the project

Novel biological tools to reduce the ecological impact and restore the natural and agricultural ecosystems threatened by the quarantine plant pathogen Xylella fastidiosa

The proposal targets a quarantine plant pathogen, Xylella fastidiosa, a xylem-associated bacterium that is causing significant (socio)economic and environmental losses to European (including Spanish) agriculture and forestry, trade, and the environment. X. fastidiosa has been identified as a major transboundary plant pest, posing a serious threat to food security and the environment worldwide. Thus, X. fastidiosa was ranked first in the priority list of pests in the EU for different environmental impact indicators that included the evaluation of impacts on street trees, parks and natural and planted areas; undesired impacts of control measures on the environment; and impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services.

In Europe, X. fastidiosa emerged as a pathogen of global importance associated with a devastating epidemic in olive trees in Sothern Italy in 2013. Since then, several outbreaks were detected in the EU and neighbouring countries, including Spain (the Balearic Islands in 2016 and Alicante in 2017). Additionally, more than 100 different plant species have been found infected, including economically relevant crops for EU, such as olive trees, grapevines and almond trees, but also several landscape and ornamental plants. These outbreaks evidence that major crops and ecosystems in the EU can be severely damaged by X. fastidiosa infections, affecting not only agricultural productivity, but also the environment and cultural heritage.

2013

In Europe, X. fastidiosa emerged as a pathogen of global importance associated with a devastating epidemic in olive trees in Sothern Italy

2016

Since then, several outbreaks were detected in the EU and neighbouring countries, including Spain in the Balearic Islands

2017

Since then, several outbreaks were detected in the EU and neighbouring countries, including Spain in Alicante

X.F.

These outbreaks evidence that major crops and ecosystems in the EU can be severely damaged by X. fastidiosa infections

600

More than 600 different plant species have been found infected, including economically relevant crops for EU

Disease control measures currently used, such as eradication can bring a range of negative impacts on various human and non-human actors. Given the great complexity of the X. fastidiosa -pathosystem (several subspecies and sequence types-STs), prevention and practical solutions for disease control should address multiple host-pathogen-environment combinations. Furthermore, main EU threatened plant species include perennials, requiring long-term sustained research efforts for the selection or breeding of plant resistance, which are critical for restoration of outbreak areas. In addition, there is a substantial gap in control solutions targeting X. fastidiosa or its vectors. Innovative and efficient disease management strategies that are aligned with the EU Green Deal are urgently needed, aiming to substantially reduce pesticide use and boost organic production, and address the environmental objectives ‘Protection and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems’ and ‘Climate change mitigation’ described under EU Regulation 2020/852.

The overall aim of the present Project is to develop interdisciplinary, translational approaches to provide novel innovative biological tools to reduce the ecological impact of control measures and restore X. fastidiosa threatened agricultural and natural ecosystems.  This approach will consider the genetic diversity present in the EU areas where X. fastidiosa is established (subsp. fastidiosa ST1, multiplex ST6, ST7 and ST81 and subsp. pauca ST53 and ST80).

To achieve the objectives, an interdisciplinary research consortium will join to develop innovative biological tools that can be used at a later stage, to implement tailored IPM programs for mitigating X. fastidiosa impact in the EU, particularly in Spain, and help to restore the biodiversity of affected agricultural and natural ecosystems in line with the EU Green Deal and the Farm to Fork strategies.

It is expected that this proposal will contribute to promoting research and innovation and specifically provide solutions to address some of the environmental objectives described under EU Regulation 2020/852 of the European parliament and of the Council of 18 June 2020, specifically ‘Protection and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems’ and in a lesser extend ‘climate change mitigation’.