valérie grimault tobrfv

#Meet the VIRTIGATION Advisory Board Members: Interview with Valérie Grimault

In the second edition of our “#Meet the VIRTIGATION Advisory Board Members” series, we speak with Valérie Grimault, Assistant Director at the key international plant protection organisation EPPO and renowned ToBRFV expert.

Intergovernmental policymaker with a background in plant bacteriology

Valérie Grimault joined the EPPO Secretariat as Assistant Director on the 6th of March 2023. Grimault worked for 17 years for Geves (the French Variety and Seed Study and Control Group) in Angers, at the Plant Health National Reference Laboratory on seeds and seedlings. She was also Chair of the Seed Health Committee of ISTA (International Seed Testing Association). She has contributed to many national and international projects and  workshops, as well as to Pest Risk Analysis. Grimault has a PhD in plant bacteriology.

Valérie Grimault joined the VIRTIGATION Advisory Board in May 2023 © 2023 EPPO, used with explicit permission of Valérie Grimault

"Our aim is to raise awareness on the importance of plant protection"

On the sidelines of the VIRTIGATION annual meeting in Israel, Valérie Grimault sat down with VIRTIGATION to share her insights on the plant health policies spearheaded by EPPO, and why she joined the project as member of its Advisory Board. 

Valérie, you recently joined the EPPO and the VIRTIGATION Advisory Board as a member. What is your role in the EPPO?

I am Assistant Director of EPPO and particularly in charge of pest risk analysis, phytosanitary measures and plant health diagnostics.

What does the EPPO do?

EPPO is the regional plant protection organisation for the European and Mediterranean area, representing its 52 member countries in the plant protection area. Its activities are focused on plant health, especially with plant protection products, and plant quarantine pests. We also work on raising awareness, pest risk analysis, diagnostics protocols, invasive alien plants and biocontrol agents. Our role is to publish standards and develop databases like the Global Database, Plant Protection Products and Pest Risk Analysis platforms. Ultimately, our aim is to raise awareness on the importance of plant protection. EPPO also promotes information between its members countries, and links together experts involved in plant protection via its expert laboratory database and the validation database, where experts can share their validation data for diagnostic protocols. Finally, EPPO is also involved in the organization of workshops and congress sessions or events.

Why is the EPPO important for plant health?

Just to give you a few examples: Pest Risk Analysis allows to identify risks of entry, establishment and dissemination of pests in the endangered area and to recommend phytosanitary measures to prevent it. The diagnostic protocols allow to detect and identify the pests. The plant protection products database with its information on resistance to pesticides contributes to the management of pests. For ToBRFV for example, we have published a Pest Risk Analysis and diagnostic protocol. Finally, with the Global Database, we promote information about more than 1700 pest species.

"The outputs of VIRTIGATION could be very valuable for EPPO's work on ToBRFV"

What contribution to do you aim to bring to the project as member of the VIRTIGATION Advisory Board?

I think we can contribute to the project by sharing our experience on plant health, in particular on the diagnostics of the viruses and on the situation in the EPPO region, Personally, I can bring in my knowledge on the resistance of tomato varieties to ToBRFV, as in my former work with Geves, I was working on this topic. We have also published diagnostic protocols on some of the viruses that VIRTIGATION is working on. EPPO can also provide contacts to the plant protection organisations of its 52 member countries, to help share the generated project knowledge with the EPPO Global Database, and to also assist the project when needed.

And what contributions would you expect from VIRTIGATION to the work of the EPPO?

Personally, I’m very interested in the VIRTIGATION project. The outputs of this project could be very valuable for the work of the EPPO. For example, the results and scientific data of VIRTIGATION may allow to update the EPPO Pest Risk Analysis for ToBRFV, as well as relevant diagnostic protocols.

"All actors should have the same level of knowledge to be able to control emerging viral diseases together"

What needs to be done to tackle emerging viral diseases caused by ToBRFV and ToLCNDV in tomato and cucurbit crops?

I think it really comes down to a combination of factors. First, very good detection. Second, resistance of varieties. Third, integrated protection measures are also crucial. And fourth, raising awareness and a lot of communication with growers is also very important, as well as with other stakeholders, such as National Plant Protection Organisations and other official bodies. This can ensure that all actors should have the same level of knowledge to be able to control emerging viral diseases together.