How to Fight the Diseases

Current management strategies for insect-borne prokaryote-associated diseases are mainly based on uprooting symptomatic or infected plants and using pesticides to reduce the number of insect vectors. However, although some Grapevine Yellows (GY), Huanglongbing (HLB), and Lethal Yellowing (LY) insect vectors in tropical and subtropical regions have been identified, their seasonal trend is still not clear. Information on biotype susceptibility and genetic determinants of resistance is currently inaccurate or even completely lacking.

On the other hand, diagnostics for early pathogen detection in plants and vectors have been developed at a certain level. However, there is a need for further technological advances, aimed at the development of specific, reliable and cost-effective detection methods.

The possibility of cultivating the characterized strains of phytoplasmas that will be detected as the main associated agents will open new avenues for the correct interpretation of molecular results in both insect vectors and symptomatic plants and also aid the production of improved user-friendly detection kits.

Integrated Pest Management

TROPICSAFE will allow the development and validation of new sustainable and eco-friendly Integrated Pest Management strategies adapted to tropical and subtropical areas based on:

  • Reduction of insecticide treatments.
  • Management of reservoir plant species that contribute to spread the diseases.
  • Agronomical practices and test of crop resistance/tolerance traits through plant material screenings.
  • Prediction models for the spread of pathogens and insect vectors.
  • Classical biological control programmes will also be implemented by introducing effective natural enemies.
The outcomes of such studies will be disseminated to the growers together with management guidelines and a selection of diagnostic tools.

Technological Advances

TROPICSAFE will work on the design of new LAMP protocols, which will be fast, very specific and adapted for on-site detection. Samples of pathogens will be collected from relevant geographical areas and characterized to determine target concentration, genetic homogeneity and stability under different conditions. On-site and cost-effective immunological methods produced using LY and GY phytoplasma cultures will be developed. Innovative screening strategies, in particular molecular markers to follow pathogen spread, will be developed and validated.