Xylella: 'Impressive progress, but much still to be done'

More than 250 plant health experts from around the world met in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, this week to share and debate the latest scientific developments on efforts to tackle the spread of Xylella fastidiosa.

The programme included around 50 presentations looking at issues such as current knowledge of the pathogen, how it is transmitted, resistance in plants and control measures. There were keynote speeches from scientists working on the frontline against Xylella in Italy, Spain, France and the UK, and from the United States and Brazil as well as bodies such as the European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization (EPPO) and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC).

The speakers brought experience from the US and South America, where Xylella has been present for many years, together with the research being done in the outbreak areas in Europe, where the pathogen was first detected in 2013.

Giuseppe Stancanelli, head of the Plant Health team at EFSA, which co-hosted the conference, said: “This was the biggest scientific conference held in Europe on Xylella. The fact that so many experts came from across the globe shows that the fight against this dangerous pathogen requires a coordinated international effort. Xylella does not respect national boundaries.”

The three day discussions highlighted the complexity behind the need to control Xylella. A one-size-fits-all approach cannot be effective as pathogen, vectors, host plants and the environment differ throughout the EU.

“The progress made on Xylella research in Europe in recent years has been impressive, however there is still much to be done,” said Prof Mike Jeger, chair of EFSA’s Plant Health Panel in the conference’s closing remarks. “Long-term research programmes are needed to support scientists.”

The conference is expected to reconvene in two years in Corsica, which has also been affected by a Xylella outbreak.

A report on this year’s meeting will be published next month. Details of the programme and presentations can be found on the event website.

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