“Beastie the Bug” is the mascot of the European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization (EPPO) that was born when the United Nations proclaimed 2020 as the International Year of Plant Health. The mission of the mascot is to travel around the world to give visibility to those who work on issues related to plant health – such as the researchers involved in TROPICSAFE – while exemplifying how quickly a pest can spread affecting crops.
This mascot has visited some of the partners of the Tropicsafe project, made up of 22 entities from 12 countries, to give visibility of the problems that are addressed in this project: diseases associated with prokaryotes transmitted by insects that see citrus fruits, vine, and the palm. Specifically, this project studies the lethal yellowing of the coconut tree (LY), the phytoplasmas of the yellowing of the vineyard (GY), and the greening of citrus fruits or Huanglongbing (HLB), all infectious diseases that seriously affect the trade and import of agricultural products around the world.
“Beastie’s” journey to discover the Tropicsafe project started at the Fundación Empresa Universidad Gallega (FEUGA), partner responsible for the communication, dissemination, and exploitation of the project financed by the Horizon 2020 program.
After this first stop, this plague in the form of a stuffed animal arrived at the Institut Valencià d’Investigacions Agràries (IVIA). At the IVIA, she was received by the researcher Alejandro Tena and was able to learn more about the development of the project. In particular, Beastie discovered the work of the IVIA Center for Plant Protection and Biotechnology to reduce the spread of the psyllid Trioza erytreae, a vector of citrus greening or huanglongbing (HLB).
Specifically, thanks to its involvement in Tropicsafe, IVIA staff traveled to South Africa to study, select and import the main biological control agent for Trioza erytreae, the parasitoid Tamarixia dryi. With the participation of the Instituto Canario de Investigaciones Agrarias (ICIA) and all the appropriate permits from the Ministry of Agriculture, this parasitoid has been released in the Canary Islands, Galicia, and the entire affected area of Portugal, including Madeira.
During her stay in Valencia, Beastie participated in the fifth meeting of the consortium, in which she was able to meet the other members of the consortium and the work they are carrying out in different areas: survey and monitoring, epidemiology and biology, pest management in the development of innovative strategies and integrated pest management aimed at reducing costs and environmental impact of phytosanitary control measures.
Finally, Beastie landed at the University of Bologna, her last stop within the Tropicsafe project. Here, Beastie helped Professor Assunta Bertaccini – project coordinator – to study the international master’s degree in horticulture and in agricultural science and technology, raising awareness about the rapid spread of pests and their dangers to the economy.
In addition, Beastie remained in Bologna until knowing Tropicsafe would be granted an extension of one year, so the project will continue to study these diseases, their associated phytoplasmas, or resistant variants to them until April 2022.