As a competent phytosanitary research forum, one of the missions of Euphresco is to provide a platform for knowledge exchange. Euphresco facilitates collaboration amongst scientists, it promotes the dialogue between all plant health players, in particular scientists and policy makers, it helps to increase the visibility of national and trans-national research activities and the applicability of research knowledge and practical outputs. In this context, 2017 has been a very busy and successful year. In March, the new Strategic Research Agenda was published. The document sets the research priorities that Euphresco members will support over the next 5-10 years and establishes a common ground to increase coordination and cooperation between nationally-based, regional and international phytosanitary research programmes. Various international events were (co-)organised, such as the ‘Workshop on the use of Next Generation Sequencing technologies for plant pest diagnostics’.
In the diversity of activities coordinated by Euphresco there is a common point: research is at the centre and scientists play an essential role. This newsletter is dedicated to them, their passion and dedication.
Transnational research collaboration
Each year, Euphresco members identify a number of research priorities to be tackled by transnational collaboration. In 2017, 8 research projects were funded for a total budget of 1.2 M€; funding commitment for a few more projects will be finalised in the next weeks. A number of research consortia funded in 2017 through Euphresco are looking for additional partners to join before the projects start in spring 2018.
Collaboration is sought for the following projects:
2016-F-236:Ceratitis capitata: better knowledge for better risk management. The project will contribute to characterize C. capitata populations occurring worldwide. Epidemiological/biological data (such as occurrence records, timing of records and their locations, plant hosts, life stages and number of generations, capture methods, climatic and weather conditions in the location of occurrence) will be shared, studied and compared to data on specimens provided by countries where C. capitata is already widely spread. Participants will also exchange information on trap/attractants combinations in different situations, in order to identify the best traps and lures for early detection. 2016-F-262: Spatial distribution of Anoplophora glabripennis under various environmental conditions. The project intends to better understand the mechanisms of local distribution of invasive Cerambycids, using the Asian long-horned beetle Anoplophora glabripennis. By collecting and examining e.g. geo-informatic data on beetle species’ occurrences in host trees within one local area, the consortium will aim to better understand whether this distribution is random or determined by environmental/ climatic conditions. Spatial point pattern analysis could serve as one statistical tool to address the hypotheses. The project results should help modelling and strengthen the prediction of pest spread in outbreak situations and thereby enable more effective and tailor-made measures, such as monitoring. 2017-G-263: Blueberry rust caused by Thekopsora minima - improved risk assessment by supplying quick and reliable identification tools and by performing infection studies. The project aims to provide a quick and reliable identification of the different blueberry rust fungi. DNA data sets could be used as ‘one-click-identification-tools’ by researchers or plant protection officers clearly distinguishing T. minima from Naohidemyces vaccinii which share the same common name which can cause confusion. Another objective of the project is to develop a real-time PCR protocol to enable detection in asymptomatic tissues during the latent period of infection (which is important for testing import consignments). Finally, it is currently unclear whether Thekopsora minima can potentially infect the native European blueberry (Vaccinium myrtillus). This is important for risk assessment in relation to the impact the introduced Thekopsora minima might have on native European flora.
Collaboration is possible for organisations proposing activities that fit within the Euphresco research framework (see the topic descriptions for details) and that will fund their own participation in the projects. In-kind contributions and alignment of existing research activities allows organisations to join the Euphresco consortia without committing monetary funds. Any request for participation in the above-mentioned projects should be sent directly to the Euphresco coordinator by April 2018.
Use of barcoding, from theory to practice
DNA barcoding is increasingly used as a diagnostic tool in phytosanitary laboratories. The EPPO Standard PM 7/129 ‘DNA barcoding as an identification tool for a number of regulated pests’ was published in 2016. The document provides guidelines on the use of the DNA barcoding protocols in support of the identification of a number of regulated pests, including invasive plant species, comparing DNA barcode regions with those deposited in publicly available sequence databases. The international test performance study (TPS) organised to generate data on diagnostic sensitivity and robustness demonstrated that interpretation of analysis results had the biggest influence on the diagnostic sensitivity, and the majority of non-identified species were the result of conservative identification (i.e. identification to a higher taxonomical level) showing that the operator may not feel confident in assigning a lower taxon level to the sample. The Euphresco project ‘Use of barcoding from theory to practice’ (PRACTIBAR) was initiated in May 2017 to raise awareness on barcoding as a generic method for pest identification and to train experts of competent organisations. Two workshops and interactive training (theoretical and practical) were co-organised in Paris and Wageningen (NL) by the Dutch National Plant Protection Organization, the University of Guelph (CA) and the European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization. The workshops participants were informed about the most recent advances in the methodology and received training on a number of tools for data analysis: sequencing analysis softwares that allow assembly of raw sequence data (e.g. Geneious), online databases (Q-bank, NCBI, BOLD).
Given the success of the workshops, new events will be organised in 2018 in Europe (Paris, Wageningen) and North America (location to be defined); the training will be for 4 days (from Tuesday to Friday) but exact dates have not yet been agreed. The workshops are open to technicians and researchers who want to use, or are using sequencing analysis, in a phytosanitary diagnostic framework. Participants must have at least two years of experience with molecular biological tests and basic knowledge of Sanger sequencing. Pre-registration (not binding) is possible here.
Tutorials will be published on youtube and will be freely available to the whole plant health community.
Facing the threat of Xylella fastidiosa together
The bacterium Xylella fastidiosa is a serious threat to agriculture, the environment and the economy. Its geographical distribution and its host range have greatly expanded in recent years. The International Plant Protection Convention stressed (see factsheet) that coordinated efforts should be made globally to avoid further spread. Two international conferences were organised to raise awareness and to increase understanding of X. fastidiosa and its vectors; the events provided a platform to discuss the most recent research activities and share results.
The report and speakers’ presentations of the International Symposium on Xylella fastidiosa held in Brisbane (AU) are available on the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources website.
Presentations and videos of the European conference on Xylella fastidiosa held in Palma de Mallorca (ES) are available from the European Food Safety Authority website.
Perspectives on the Use of Remote Sensing Technologies in Plant Health
Early and systematic detection of pests, including diseases, is important to limit damage such as crop losses and to prevent further expansion of outbreaks, thus facilitating containment or eradication campaigns. Satellites, piloted aircraft and drones can provide precise maps of the Earth’s surface and reach locations that are difficult to survey. Recent advances in computer-assisted analysis of images facilitates data analysis and evaluation, reduces costs and eliminates the subjective judgement of a human operator. Such an analysis could be applied for border inspections (consignments) and for general or specific surveillance activities (at places of production, in forests or at outbreak sites). Remote sensing technologies are already used in a number of countries, but practical implementation is lacking in the EPPO region. The Euphresco project ‘Application of Remote Sensing in Plant Health’ is an international initiative allowing key remote sensing experts from across Europe and the US to review current work in the area and identify research requirements and gaps. The consortium will produce recommendations that will be presented and discussed with regulators and research funders during a scientific Colloquium organised in Paris on the 27th of September 2018. A preliminary agenda of the event can be found here. More information could be obtained from the Euphresco coordinator.
Preparing Europe for invasion by the beetles emerald ash borer and bronze birch borer, two major tree-killing pests
Emerald ash borer, Agrilus planipennis (EAB) which originates in South East Asia and the bronze birch borer, Agrilus anxius (BBB) which originates in North America, have the potential to cause severe damage to trees in Europe. Whilst there is considerable research activity and dissemination of information in North America, there has been relatively little input to assessing the ‘state of the art’ in a specific European context and, particularly, to increase awareness and heighten readiness for what now seems to be an inevitable westward progression of the pest from its advancing front in Russia.
The conference ‘Preparing Europe for invasion by the beetles emerald ash borer and bronze birch borer, two major tree-killing pests’, will be organised in Vienna (AT), on 1-4 October 2018. The event, is sponsored by the OECD Co-operative Research Programme, co-funded by the UK government Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) and organised in the framework of the Euphresco project ‘Risk-based strategies to prepare for and manage invasive tree borers – Pest risk evaluation and pest management systems’ (PREPSYS). More information on the event can be found here.
Latest success story: MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry for plant pest diagnostics
Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization and time-of-flight mass-spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS) is an emerging technology exhibiting promising results for the identification of bacterial plant pathogens. Advantages of the method are low cost of sample preparation and rapid experimental procedure. Identification relies on the existence of reliable databases. However, plant-associated bacteria have not been widely evaluated with this technique and are largely absent from identification databases. Using Acidovorax citrulli as a model, the Euphresco project DIP-ACIT aims to demonstrate the potential of MALDI-TOF MS for an accurate and rapid identification, including grouping, of A. citrulli isolates. The success story has been published on the Euphresco website through Zenodo.
Knowing more about Euphresco
Anybody interested in receiving information on the Euphresco activities can subscribe to the newsletter by completing the form on the Euphresco website. Those interested in participating in Euphresco projects can contact the Euphresco coordinator.