21 August 2023, EU: Research on Xylella fastidiosa is advancing in several areas, including on resistant plants, insect vectors, targeted pest control strategies and advanced technologies for early detection, such as image analysis techniques. Preparedness and early detection remain key in the fight against this bacterium that continues to threaten Europe’s economy and environment. These were the main conclusions of a global gathering of hundreds of scientific experts brought together by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
Organised by EFSA with the contribution of major EU and transnational research initiatives on Xylella fastidiosa (BeXyl, BIOVEXO, ERC MultiX and EUPHRESCO), the 4th European Conference on Xylella took place on 20 August 2023 in Lyon, France, as part of the week-long International Congress on Plant Pathology (ICPP2023). The event brought together more than 200 plant specialists on Xylella from around the world to discuss the state of the art in research to control this bacterium.
The main results presented at the event included updates on the status of epidemics in the EU, advances in resistance to Xylella in almond, grapes and olive, improved knowledge of its insect vectors allowing for a better control, and advanced tools for early detection.
Blanca B. Landa, chair of the conference and coordinator of the EU-funded project BeXyl (Beyond Xylella), said: “Thanks to EU funding, scientific research on Xylella fastidiosa has made significant progress, and the 4th European Conference highlights the many avenues science is pursuing to combat this harmful pathogen. The BeXyl project is developing further this multidisciplinary approach, exploring all possible solutions to provide stakeholders and public authorities with innovative tools to manage the current outbreaks, rapidly detect new ones, and prevent further introductions into the EU”.
Giuseppe Stancanelli, Head of EFSA’s Plant Health Risk Assessment Team, said: “Collaboration remains our guiding star. EFSA has been supporting Member States in the fight against Xylella in several ways, including by maintaining a global database of Xylella host plants, developing a harmonised surveillance system, funding targeted research, and facilitating collaboration between researchers and stakeholders to identify key knowledge gaps and research priorities. The conference highlighted preparedness and early detection as key tools in the fight against Xylella, while showcasing the tangible results that EU-funded research is delivering against major threats to Europe’s agricultural and environmental heritage”.
With plant pests and diseases posing a significant economic and social threat to Europe, EFSA launched the #PlantHealth4Life campaign in 2023, in partnership with the European Commission and Member States. Backed by a comprehensive analysis of attitudes and behaviours towards plant health across the EU, this multi-year initiative aims to raise awareness among European citizens of the importance of plant health and everyone’s responsibility to safeguard it.
Adding a creative tool to its risk communication, EFSA has published a four-page comic strip, “Fastidious X, the fearsome killer” stressing the importance of science in developing strategies to deal with plant health threats, such as Xylella. Emphasising cooperation at all levels, including citizen involvement, the comic is available in multiple EU languages.
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