Main research question/goal
For this topic, the laboratory of Plant virology focuses on monitoring of actual problems in the Flemish agriculture and horticulture caused by phytoplasmas. Additionally, It is also the aim to quickly respond to (emerging) phytoplasma diseases of phytosanitary importance and to optimize the implemented control measures based on the latest scientific insights. Most attention is given to those crops that are of great economic importance for our region, eg. potatoes, ornamentals, vegetables and fruit.Research approach
By means of a broad monitoring strategy and basic research, we select the phytoplasma problems that require a thorough thematic study. By means of specific research projects, we study specific diseases and respective strategies for control. Additionally, quarantine diseases caused by phytoplasmas are followed through a number of targeted surveys and epidemiological studies. This happens both on a national level, including contract research projects (FPS), and European level (ERA-net, EUPHRESCO projects). Current studies include the status of the potato stolbur phytoplasma (FYQUARSTAT), apple proliferation and pear decline disease (REPEDAP) in Belgium and epidemiological research on potato phytoplasmas (PHYLIB), 'bois noir' in grapevine (GRAFDEPI) and fruit phytoplasmas (APOPHYT) through the EUPHRESCO network. The required quality and innovation in diagnostics is achieved through participating in inter-laboratory tests (proficiency tests) for various newly developed molecular methods.Relevance/Valorisation
The active monitoring of phytoplasma diseases in crops in Flanders and Belgium should ensure a rapid response from the scientific angle, minimizing the economic impact of the problems caused by these pathogens. Similarly, this is also the case for diseases caused by the regulated phytoplasmas. Through a better understanding of the impact and geographical spread of the pathogen and by increasing knowledge of the epidemiology, such as the transmission risk by various (insect) vectors, the problem can be handled in a faster and more efficient way. Additionally, valuable “real-time” information is gathered and presented to the competent authorities, allowing them to evaluate and review the Q-status of the concerned pathogens and optimize the regulations that are coupled to this status.