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Specialists ask for more funds to investigate the Xylella bacteria and to increase scientific collaboration

Specialists who have participated in the conference Advances in the detection of <i>Xylella fastidiosa</i>.
Specialists who have participated in the conference Advances in the detection of Xylella fastidiosa.

To increase the economic endowment for research and to be able to find resistant crops, to increase scientific collaboration between countries that have suffered for years the effects of Xylella fastidiosa and others where it has recently entered, as well as to continue with containment and eradication policies for affected crops are some of the conclusions of the conference Advances in the detection of Xylella fastidiosa held in Valencia this Tuesday.

The conference, with the assistance of almost one hundred people, has been organised by the Ibero-American Network for the control of this bacterium (CYTED-IBER-XYFAS) by the Institute of Integrative Systems Biology, mixed centre of the University of Valencia and of the CSIC, as well as the Valencian Institute of Agricultural Investigations (IVIA). It has taken place in the House of Science of Valencia and has been presented by the Vice Chancellor for Research, Carlos Hermenegildo; the institutional coordinator of the CSIC in the Valencian Community, Juan Fuster; and the director of the IVIA, Enrique Moltó.

“There is a general feeling is that we must increase the resources for detection, but also for the prevention, of this and other diseases that affect fruit trees”, said Juli Peretó, coordinator of the Ibero-American Network for the control of Xylella fastidiosa, deputy director of I2SysBio and professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology of the University of Valencia regarding other diseases that have not yet reached the European continent.

In addition, the conclave has highlighted that the effect of Xylella varies according to each country, given the diversity of hosts it can have and the characteristics of each area, so, depending on the country, this disease affects some crops or others, and it does so in totally different ways, which makes unitary protocols difficult. “We have to join efforts to fight Xylella”, Peretó said.

Specialists in the detection of this pest from Brazil, Argentina, Costa Rica, Italy, the Balearic Islands and Valencia participated in the session. Among the conclusions it was also emphasised that there are currently two European Union projects on this subject in the IVIA. José Luis García, director of the Institute of Integrative Systems Biology, asked for more financial resources for research on Xylella.

Edson Bertolini, from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, in Brazil, recalled that they are the main world orange producer, and how at the beginning of the plague caused by Xylella millions of citrus trees were uprooted, which has allowed us to continue leading this sector. Currently, in this country Xylella affects four crops: citrus, plums, olive trees and coffee. According to the expert, since its detection in 1978, the production of plum has fallen by 90%, while in the case of citrus trees some millions have been uprooted since 1987. “Now, the situation is much better than ten years ago, but they keep uprooting trees.”

For his part, Carlos Alonso Chacón, of the Centre for Research in Tropical Diseases of the University of Costa Rica, explained that the greater the biodiversity, the less problems arise than when the ecosystem is occupied by a monoculture. The diversity of plants and bacteria means that none of them can predominate over the rest, in the other case, pathogens can seriously affect the entire ecosystem.

On the part of the IVIA, Ester Marco, responsible for the reference laboratory of Spanish phytopathogens on Xylella, characterised the situation of the Xylella disease in Europe, with foci detected in the Balearic Islands (except Formentera), Alicante, northern Italy and northern Portugal. She stressed that the laboratory analyses the samples that arrive, especially almond, and the great variety of the Xylella bacteria is verified, and how it mutates. Francisco Beitia, also an expert at IVIA, explained how this bacterium enters several insects (its vectors) and is how it is transmitted to other plants. Given the wide variety of Xylella vectors, it is impossible to eradicate them all. “The scientific community has not yet found a way to end this bacterium”, he said. In addition, Sergio Cubero explained how an IVIA research group works on remote control sensors to know the symptoms that the crops may have and to be able to relate them to Xylella and thus prevent the disease caused by the bacteria.

Juan Pedro Bouvet (National Institute of Agricultural Technology, Argentina) highlighted how in Argentina Xylella is a subject displaced by the current concern for the HLB, better known as the yellow dragon, and that has caused a great mortality of citrus fruits. “The subject was investigated years ago, but has been displaced by this new disease, much more aggressive.” Diego Olmo (Official Laboratory of Plant Health of the Balearic Islands) explained the recognition of symptoms and protocols for action against Xylella. María Saponara, from the Institute for the sustainable production of plants in Italy, also participated in the conference, who gave the European diagnostic protocol.


Science and Technology for Development

Tuesday is the first activity of the IBER XYFAS network carried out within the framework of the Ibero-American Program of Science and Technology for Development (CYTED), created by the governments of Ibero-American countries in order to promote cooperation in science, technology and Innovation for development.

The IBER-XYFAS Network is coordinated by Juli Peretó, a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Valencia and deputy director of the Institute for Integrative Systems Biology (I2SysBio, UV-CSIC). It is formed by a consortium of 32 academic research groups, companies and institutions with agronomic competences (such as the Valencian Institute of Agricultural Research or the corresponding plant health services of the Valencian Government, the Balearic Government or the the General Council of Aragón), belonging to 10 countries (Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Spain, United States of America, Guatemala, Italy, Mexico, Portugal and Chile).

The IBER-XYFAS consortium also proposes to sensitise the public in general and the agricultural sector in particular about the diseases, hitherto incurable, caused by this bacterium that attacks numerous crops of great economic importance, including almond, olive, vine, citrus fruits and a variety of fruit trees.


Programme of the conference:


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