23 September 2020

A European project to combat ‘Citrus Greening

The Regional Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Sustainable Development, through the Andalusian Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries Research and Training (IFAPA), is participating in the international project ‘Life Vida for Citrus’ aimed at protecting the citrus fruit sector from Huanglongbing disease (HLB), also known as ‘Citrus Greening’.

This initiative, which is also committed to implementing environmentally friendly cultivation practices, arises in response to the threat posed to these crops by the presence of Trioza erytreae in Europe, as it is a vector of HLB that could spread the disease if any outbreak is detected on the continent.

The scope of action of ‘Life Vida for Citrus’ includes four countries (Portugal, France, Italy and Spain) and for its development it counts on the collaboration of a total of 13 partners. In addition to the Andalusian Regional Government, the following organisations are cooperating in this initiative: the Agricultural Association of Young Farmers (Asaja) of Malaga and at national level, the Valencian Association of Farmers (AVA-Asaja), the Seville City Council, the Canary Islands Institute of Agricultural Research (ICIA), the Valencian Institute of Agricultural Research (IVIA), the French Centre for International Cooperation in Agricultural Research for Development (Cirad) and the National Institute of Agricultural Research (INRA) of the same country. Also collaborating are Agrimarba SL, Universidade do Algarve and Valenciagro – Produção Frutícola Unipessoal LDA (Portugal), and Università Degli Studi di Catania (Italy).

HLB disease, caused by the bacterium Candidatus Liberibacter spp, can be transmitted by the vectors Diaphorina citri and Trioza erytreae. The latter insect, also known as African citrus psyllid, was first detected in the north-west of the Iberian Peninsula in 2014 and is currently present in the area of influence of Lisbon, Portugal, about 200 kilometres from the main citrus plantations in the Portuguese Algarve and Huelva.

There is currently no outbreak of ‘Citrus Greening’ in Europe but it poses a threat to citrus farms on the continent given its ability to affect the profitability of plantations. The disease has no known cure and the current means of control carried out in producing regions that have been affected by the bacteria have a high economic and environmental cost that is incompatible with European production systems.

Field work.

One of the specific objectives of ‘Life Vida for Citrus’ is the development of an early diagnosis kit for the disease and the evaluation of new citrus patterns under Mediterranean soil and climate conditions to achieve better adaptation and resilience of the plantations. It also aims to evaluate the effectiveness of techniques aimed at controlling vectors and improving the ecosystem (plant, soil and biodiversity), create a replicable model for European citrus producers and promote international cooperation in the prevention and control of HLB disease and insects capable of spreading it.

The project has started with a training action and the sharing of technical actions carried out to date by the different partners in the field of identification, monitoring and control of HLB vectors. Actions implemented for the management of covers and hedges and other actions related to the improvement of production, soil health and fertilization have also been shared.

Subsequently, the members of the research group have proceeded to implement various cultural practices in the demonstration plots in which the influence of the different edapho-climatic scenarios of the Mediterranean can be observed, as the plots are located in four different countries.

In order to facilitate access to information on the project by all interested parties, a website has been set up to provide details on the evolution of ‘Life for Citrus’.

The LIFE Programme is the only European Union financial instrument exclusively dedicated to the environment. Its overall objective for the period 2004-2020 is to contribute to sustainable development and to the achievement of the objectives and targets of the Europe 2020 strategy and the relevant EU environment and climate strategies and plans.

News published in: los enlaces de la vida

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