New Tool Could Stop the Spread of Main Xylella Fastidiosa Vector

Using sound vibrations, researchers may be able to disrupt the mating of spittlebugs in olive groves. Agriculture groups are calling for more research.
Photo by Cain Burdeau for Olive Oil Times
Mar. 15, 2021
Paolo DeAndreis

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A team of Italian researchers has devel­oped a new tool to com­bat Xylella fas­tidiosa. It aims at dis­turb­ing spit­tle­bug mat­ing, which is one of the main vec­tors of the bac­te­ria.

Xylella fas­tidiosa is a deadly pathogen that has infected 21 mil­lion olive trees spread over 183,000 hectares across south­ern Italy, accord­ing to the Italian agri­cul­tural asso­ci­a­tion, Coldiretti.

A con­tin­u­ous noise with a spe­cific fre­quency range could suc­cess­fully dis­rupt mat­ing by inter­fer­ing with the male-female com­mu­ni­ca­tion.- XF-Actors , 

The new research area, known as biotremol­ogy, led sci­en­tists to inves­ti­gate the effects of sound vibra­tions on the insects and dis­cover how spit­tle­bug repro­duc­tion could be cur­tailed.

Researchers from the XF-Actors ini­tia­tive, the Edmund Mach Foundation, the University of Trento and the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Bari focused on the impact spe­cific vibra­tions had on the species’ repro­duc­tion, bor­row­ing from the expe­ri­ences of its appli­ca­tion on vine­yard pests.

See Also: Treatment to Mitigate the Impact of Xylella Fastidiosa Shows Promise in Italy

In the last decade, the effects of vibra­tional dis­rup­tion on the most dam­ag­ing insects to the country’s agri­cul­tural sec­tor have been inves­ti­gated.

The insects use the micro-vibra­tions to com­mu­ni­cate,” Edmund Mach Foundation researchers said. By inter­fer­ing with those com­mu­ni­ca­tions, the females of sev­eral insects can not receive the sig­nals from the males, which trans­lates in a rel­e­vant reduc­tion of mat­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties.”

In vine­yards, vibra­tional dis­rup­tion sig­nals are already being tested to reduce the use of pes­ti­cides. Experts believe that the same treat­ment could be used in Apulian olive groves to con­tain spit­tle­bug repro­duc­tion and the spread of Xylella fas­tidiosa.

Scientists col­lected data on the vibra­tional com­mu­ni­ca­tion of Philaenus spumarius [the spit­tle­bug species] with a laser vibrom­e­ter through­out the year,” an XF-Actors press release said. A con­tin­u­ous noise with a spe­cific fre­quency range could suc­cess­fully dis­rupt mat­ing by inter­fer­ing with the male-female com­mu­ni­ca­tion.”

While the sci­en­tists believe that these first results are encour­ag­ing, they high­light how fur­ther research on the new bio­log­i­cal tool is needed.

The study is still ongo­ing and will cer­tainly lead to essen­tial sci­en­tific evi­dence for the fight against the vec­tor insect,” said Savino Muraglia, pres­i­dent of Coldiretti Puglia. The impor­tance of sci­en­tific research in the fight against Xylella fas­tidiosa has been evi­dent for years and must be sup­ported with more fund­ing for lab­o­ra­tory research, mon­i­tor­ing and sam­pling activ­i­ties [that came as the result of] the €10 mil­lion allo­cated by the Olive Regeneration Plan.”

The funds from the European Union des­tined for mon­i­tor­ing and sam­pling are just small change, being equal to €3 mil­lion for the whole Italian ter­ri­tory and des­tined to cover oper­a­tions about seven dif­fer­ent pathogens,” he added.





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