XF-ACTORS is the first international research project in Europe entirely devoted to develop a multidisciplinary research program on the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa. XF-ACTORS is a large consortium, involving 29 Partners and Research Institutions, including 4 non-European research centers from USA, Brazil, Costa Rica and Taiwan, whose support and scientific contribution will be very critical for capitalizing the existing knowledge, since relevant research programs have been already undertaken in these countries where the pathogen is known to be established since long time.
The project has officially started on November 1st 2016; the research work plan will be completed by the end of October 2020. The overall contribution of the European Union is 6.903.000 EUR.
In response to the urgent need to improve prevention strategies, early detection and control of Xylella fastidiosa, XF-ACTORS aims to implement a multidisciplinary research program to fill the research gaps and strengthen the EU research capabilities, with a global strategy for the integrated management of the outbreaks, to prevent the further spread of the bacterium in the EU territories, and to mitigate the economic, environmental and social aspects of the epidemics.
The specific objectives of XF-ACTORS are:
- Strengthen preventive measures by consolidating expertise and awareness of plant health agencies, decision-makers and relevant stakeholders. The project ambition is to provide effective and harmonized guidelines for survey in the EU territory, ensuring common surveillance methodology, while developing capacity building of the human resources involved at international and national level in the biosecurity plan.
- The development of efficient surveillance programs for early detection. The development of methodologies for rapid and sensitive bacterial detection is one of the main project task, whose outcomes will support field surveys and inspections at the point of entry, and that coupled with the use of remote sensing technologies for discovering Xf-associated symptoms at the early stage aims to provide efficient and innovative tools for prevention.
- Fill the research gaps on the biology, genetics and pathogen-host interactions. Researches will be aimed to unravel critical information on the biology, genetics, mechanisms of interaction with the plant host(s), through an experimental workplan that involves EU and non-EU research groups, under the scientific guidance of the researchers from the two major American countries dealing with the pathogen (US and Brasil).
- Extend the knowledge on the xylem-sap feeder bio-ecology. Because no consolidated data on the distribution of various potential insect vectors are available in EU, with consequent uncertainties about the area where the bacterium can spread rapidly and cause serious disease outbreaks, the project work plan will investigate the biological processes involved in insect vectoring (feeding behavior, host preference, vibrational communication signals) and the use of innovative approaches (NGS analysis, microbiome and metagenomics sequencing) to produce massive information for the development of novel bio-control tools.
- Develop novel and innovative management strategies while establishing an integrated framework of sustainable approaches for long-term sustainability of cropping systems that protect and/ or minimize the economic, environmental and social impacts throughout the entire EU territory.
- Integrate research data outcomes and predictive modeling to develop pest risk assessment (PRA) tools at a regional scale for prevention and control the bacterial spread, and capitalize research information through a dynamic portal.
- Establish a platform for adequate communication and dissemination, to create knowledge and critical awareness about project goals and accomplishments, while ensuring an effective knowledge transfer among the various actors involved.