UP joins worldwide research project to fight bacteria affecting tropical and subtropical crops

Posted on June 22, 2017


The University of Pretoria (UP) has become a partner in the TROPICSAFE project, an initiative to fight three economically important bacterial diseases of citrus plants, grapevines and palms.

Insect-transmitted diseases – specifically citrus greening or huanglongbing in citrus, grapevine yellows in grapevines and lethal yellowing in palms – pose a major challenge to growers worldwide, including southern Africa.

TROPICSAFE aims at developing innovative tools and solutions to manage and reduce the impact of these harmful diseases. The €4 million project is financed by HORIZON 2020, an EU research and innovation programme. TROPICSAFE involves 22 leading academic institutions, public sector partners, and producer associations, including four partners from South Africa. UP and Stellenbosch University provide expertise in plant pathology, entomology, genetics, and biotechnology, and PathoSolutions and VinPro have joined the project as industry partners conducting technology transfer and skills training.

TROPICSAFE is led by the University of Bologna (UNIBO) in Italy, with Professor Assunta Bertaccini as coordinator. To launch the four-year project, Bologna hosted a meeting at the Alma Mater Studiorum that was attended by participants from twelve countries around the world: South Africa, Ghana, Italy, Spain, France (including Guadeloupe and Réunion), the United Kingdom, Denmark, Slovenia, Jamaica, Chile, Mexico, and Cuba.

'It is essential to combine our efforts in addressing research gaps and to provide growers with economically and environmentally sound management tools to combat the diseases severely affecting citrus, grapevine and palm production,' says Professor Kerstin Krüger of the Department of Zoology and Entomology at UP. Professor Krüger leads the research team at UP, which also consists of Professor Gerhard Pietersen and students.

TROPICSAFE will deploy knowledge and technologies to carry out epidemiological studies aimed at filling knowledge gaps (including climatic and cultural factors), integrated pest management strategies based on innovative diagnostic and prevention tools, reduced insecticide treatments, and pest risk assessment schemes.

The project will evaluate the economical sustainability and industrial relevance of the proposed solutions and will assess the social impact of the plant diseases and the distributive effects in the target countries. Local plant protection organisations, farmers and producers will actively participate as partners, taking part in field trials, and demonstrating and exploiting the results.

A website providing news and information on TROPICSAFE will be launched soon.



- Author Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences

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