Grant Provides Funds for Researching Xylella Fastidiosa Biopesticides

The European Commission awarded the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant to the University of Jaén to research new methods to curb the spread of the deadly olive pathogen.
Jul. 30, 2021
Ephantus Mukundi

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The European Commission has awarded the Marie Skłodowska-Curie inves­tiga­tive action grant to the University of Jaén to research treat­ments for the deadly olive tree pathogen, Xylella fas­tidiosa.

The objec­tive of the project is to develop a new intel­li­gent biopes­ti­cide based on bac­te­r­ial spores specif­i­cally aimed at elim­i­nat­ing Xylella fas­tidiosa,” said Julia Manetsberger, a researcher at the University of Cambridge.

Additionally, the study seeks to increase the range of alter­na­tive biopes­ti­cides for use in agri­cul­ture in the European Union.

See Also: New Tool Could Stop the Spread of Main Xylella Fastidiosa Vector

Xylella fas­tidiosa poses a sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenge for olive farm­ers in the E.U. It is esti­mated that the bac­te­ria causes an esti­mated annual pro­duc­tion loss of €5.5 bil­lion, thereby putting more than 300,000 jobs at risk unless its threat is con­tained.

As a result, the E.U. con­sid­ers erad­i­cat­ing Xylella fas­tidiosa a high pri­or­ity. Unfortunately, pre­vi­ous field treat­ment attempts have failed, high­light­ing the need to find a last­ing solu­tion to the olive tree men­ace.

At the same time, the commission’s ambi­tious Farm to Fork Strategy and Green Deal sets the reduc­tion of chem­i­cal pes­ti­cides by 50 per­cent by the end of the decade as a top pri­or­ity.

Currently, the avail­abil­ity of nat­ural alter­na­tives is low, which makes the search for new solu­tions for pests and dis­ease vec­tors urgent.

Due to these chal­lenges, the study pro­poses devel­op­ing new biopes­ti­cides based on bac­te­r­ial spores that specif­i­cally tar­get Xylella fas­tidiosa insect vec­tors and infected trees.

While using spores is not new in med­ical appli­ca­tions, the study seeks to extend the con­cept by engi­neer­ing spores to be used as a biopes­ti­cide deliv­ery vehi­cle.

To achieve this, the study will iso­late the bac­te­r­ial can­di­dates from vec­tors and orchards. An activ­ity screen will iden­tify new antimi­cro­bial pep­tides that tar­get Xylella fas­tidiosa.

These spores will then be engi­neered to express and store the active agents in the core or coat them against bio­log­i­cal degra­da­tion and physic­o­chem­i­cal. The het­erol­o­gous pro­tein will be released into the envi­ron­ment dur­ing ger­mi­na­tion.

This study will pro­vide novel insights into the treat­ment of Xylella fas­tidiosa under field con­di­tions, while also extend­ing our reper­toire of alter­na­tive biopes­ti­cides for use in E.U. agri­cul­ture,” the com­mis­sion wrote. In a wider con­text, the project seeks to con­tribute to trans­form­ing E.U. agri­cul­ture into a mod­ern, resource-effi­cient and resilient sec­tor.”





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