The main expected impacts of VIRTIGATION
In the long-run, VIRTIGATION aims to reduce tomato and cucurbit crop losses stemming from viral diseases by up to 80%, with possibly even eradicating crop losses in Europe and Israel. Moreover, the project seeks to cut in half, or even totally eliminate in some circumstances, the use of pesticides as mitigation measure to control viruses and their vectors. Specifically, the VIRTIGATION project aims to:
- Enable understanding the drivers of plant virus emergence and spread, including the impacts of climate change, thanks to a novel online analysis tool – the Genome Detection Platform -, and the development of an emerging virus warning app;
- Creation of tools to prevent, detect and control plant diseases, including through diagnostic tests, online tracking and tracing and full genome sequencing – “test, track & trace”;
- Develop systemic, environmentally friendly and long-lasting solutions to control both viruses and their vectors, in line with the principles of Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
- Reduce economic, social and environmental losses for European agriculture and horticulture, by training the entire tomato and cucurbit value chain in using virus- and vector-control measures such as resistant plant varieties, vaccines and disinfection.
- Support EU plant health data management and policies, by creating a network on emerging plant virus detection – the VIRTIGATION network -, and providing knowledge exchange and advisory tools to farmers, growers and other stakeholders through a comprehensive multi-actor approach coordinated by expert National Knowledge Brokers;
Every year, EU tomato producers lose EUR 1,67 billion of their crops due to viral diseases, while EU cucurbits producers sustain losses worth EUR 0,21 billion due to these plant diseases. VIRTIGATION’s solutions aim to eradicate these crop losses in Europe, as well as in Israel. In the project’s other target countries India and Morocco, it seeks to reduce losses caused by viral diseases by up to 80%.
Viral diseases also result in the extensive use of pesticides, thereby exposing growers, consumers and the environment to pesticide residues. Pesticides are especially heavily used to control begomoviruses and their insect vector, whiteflies. VIRTIGATION’s ambition is to decrease by up to 50% the use of pesticides in tomato and cucurbit production against viruses and their vectors.
The VIRTIGATION multi-actor approach, represented in its flagship multi-stakeholder network “VIRTIGATION network”, aims to gather up to 500 stakeholders in 11 countries to co-design the project’s research & development activities. Furthermore, VIRTIGATION seeks to train up to 200 key actors (e.g. growers, farmers, etc.) on its developed solutions to control emerging viral diseases.
The ambition of the project’s novel Genome Detection platform tool for large-scale analysis and monitoring of transmission routes of key plant viruses in the EU is to be tested by up to 1000 users (e.g. plant virologists, research centers, agricultural extension services). In addition to this, this platform will include an emerging virus warning app which will be provided to growers as an early mobile information system on virus sequence diversities (e.g. variants) and the evolution and monitoring of virus spread in their areas.
The VIRTIGATION Advisory Board
The VIRTIGATION Advisory Board is a project body that provides strategic scientific, technical and economic recommendations to better guide the project’s research & innovation efforts. It consists of experts from research, policy and industry. The Advisory Board was established at the VIRTIGATION annual meeting in Israel in May 2023, and will regularly meet with VIRTIGATION partners to assess project progress as well as provide advice on valorisation of results, in particular in terms of market uptake, standardisation and plant health policy contributions.