Volunteers in Italy and Spain to Track Spittlebug Activity

Efforts in Puglia and Andalusia are underway to monitor the spread of the deadly vector of Xyella fastidiosa. Using mobile applications, volunteers will help experts track the insect populations.
Spittlebug egg bubble
Mar. 29, 2021
Paolo DeAndreis

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Volunteers mon­i­tor­ing small pieces of land in the Italian region of Puglia could become an essen­tial part of the effort to stem the spread of Xylella fas­tidiosa.

The inde­pen­dent mon­i­tor­ing orga­ni­za­tion, Info Xylella, has put out a call for vol­un­teers to track the Philaenus spumar­ius, the insect known for being the pri­mary vec­tor of the deadly plant pathogen.

(The ini­tia­tive) will increase pub­lic involve­ment and aware­ness about the need to act urgently, and espe­cially all together, through a com­mu­nity pact to counter the epi­demic and defend the econ­omy and land­scape of our ter­ri­tory.- Info Xylella, 

Volunteers would mon­i­tor pieces of land near which they live. Organizers said the ini­tia­tive would result in a new level of mon­i­tor­ing and a deeper under­stand­ing of the spit­tle­bugs’ habi­tats and behav­iors. The appeal for vol­un­teers comes as the insects steadily approach their adult stage this year.

The so-called cit­i­zen sci­ence” ini­tia­tive will include sci­en­tists, agron­o­mists, agri-tech­ni­cal experts, farm­ers, stu­dents and ordi­nary cit­i­zens.

See Also: UK Calls for Spittlebug Spies to Gather Evidence for Xylella Project

Following sim­ple instruc­tions and a video tuto­r­ial, they will be able to find the cor­rect loca­tion, exe­cute their mon­i­tor­ing oper­a­tions reg­u­larly and send in their pho­tographs and data through Whatsapp or by email,” the appeal read.

All the data will then be ana­lyzed, sum­ma­rized and pub­lished by sci­en­tists from Italy’s National Research Council (CNR), the Basile Caramia research cen­ter and the regional asso­ci­a­tion, Arptra.

In Puglia, requests for sup­port funds from farm­ers affected by Xylella fas­tidiosa have grown 30 per­cent for the 2018/19 crop year when com­pared to 2016/17, a sign of the wors­en­ing sit­u­a­tion for Apulian olive grow­ers who are respon­si­ble for more than half of Italian olive oil pro­duc­tion.

This sea­son, [the new mon­i­tor­ing net­work] will be put to the test,” Info Xylella wrote. We shall have to ver­ify its poten­tial and vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties and will use the expe­ri­ence to upgrade the sys­tems and the pro­to­cols for the mon­i­tor­ing, com­mu­ni­ca­tion and ana­lyz­ing the result­ing data. We aim to offer sound new infor­ma­tion from this year on.”

One of the goals of the mon­i­tor­ing net­work is to bet­ter iden­tify the best period for tak­ing mea­sures to reduce the spread of the spit­tle­bug.

Other goals include gain­ing deeper under­stand­ing of the spit­tle­bug population’s evo­lu­tion in Puglia and cre­at­ing a data­base that will be used with the cli­mate data to fore­cast the insect’s devel­op­ment states.

The pro­mot­ers hope that the ini­tia­tive will increase pub­lic involve­ment and aware­ness about the need to act urgently, and espe­cially all together, through a com­mu­nity pact to counter the epi­demic and defend the econ­omy and land­scape of our ter­ri­tory.”

The province of Taranto has been the lat­est in Puglia to be afflicted by the spread of the spit­tle­bug, with sev­eral munic­i­pal­i­ties in the province ask­ing author­i­ties to declare a state of emer­gency.

See Also: Xylella Fastidiosa Updates

According to the local branch of the farm­ing asso­ci­a­tion Coldiretti, the Xylella fas­tidiosa infected area has been expand­ing toward the west of cen­tral Puglia, near Avetrana, Manduria, Sava and Maruggio.

Coldiretti said that the mon­i­tor­ing oper­a­tions con­ducted last year found 314 new olive trees infected by the pathogen.

These new infec­tions con­firm the spread of the dis­ease in the Taranto area, toward Matera,” Savino Muraglia, pres­i­dent of Coldiretti Puglia, said. That makes it even more urgent to sup­port local farm­ers to help them diver­sify their agri­cul­tural activ­i­ties and build a real­is­tic future.”

In a sep­a­rate spit­tle­bug mon­i­tor­ing ini­tia­tive in Spain, offi­cials in Andalusia also asked for vol­un­teers.

The Andalusian Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Sustainable Development’s project involves using a mobile appli­ca­tion to help mon­i­tor for the pres­ence of the spit­tle­bug and other insect vec­tors of the dis­ease. So far, no sign of Xyella fas­tidiosa has been found recently.

According to Life Resilience mag­a­zine, the mobile app will allow farm­ers, agri­cul­tural experts and the pub­lic to gather evi­dence on the pres­ence of nymphs of sev­eral vec­tor insects.

The devel­op­ers explained that this new ver­sion of the appli­ca­tion adds a spe­cific area ded­i­cated to mon­i­tor­ing Xylella fas­tidiosa. The infor­ma­tion avail­able includes maps show­ing where and how many pests and pathogens have infected local crops.

Among the fea­tures is the abil­ity to access the data com­ing directly from more than 200 cli­mate mon­i­tor­ing sta­tions, which the devel­op­ers said are strate­gi­cally placed in the fields and equipped with elec­tronic sen­sors that pro­vide the nec­es­sary infor­ma­tion to con­trol pests and dis­eases.”





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