Virome NGS analysis of diseases and pathogens for plant protection

Project Details


Main research question/goal

A frantic search is underway in agricultural research for well-performing organically-based crop protection products that do not harm consumers, growers, or biodiversity. New types of pesticides must therefore harm only the target fungi, bacteria or insects, and leave no residues on the treated fruit and vegetable crops. We know that viruses have a very specific action and that they are broken down by nature. That is why in this project VIROPLANT they are put forward as possible candidate biocontrol organisms. The researchers conducted a broad exploratory search for new viruses to protect several agricultural crops from pests, bacterial and fungal diseases. The aim was also to look at the possible application possibilities at an early stage, to take into account the wishes of growers, consumers and the rest of the chain, and to consider the economic feasibility and social acceptance of virus-based crop protection. After all, these elements are in the balance in a possible later step towards commercialization of new types of virus-based crop protection products. 

Research approach

In a first technical phase, a large number of new viruses were collected, viz. isolated from the harmful fungi, bacteria or insects under study. These were found in or on affected plants. Then the viruses were fully characterized by phenotyping, genotyping and biocontrol testing in the lab. Virus isolates that showed biocontrol potential , in these analyses were examined in a second step during in planta bioassays. In a socio-economic research phase, the knowledge from the technical part was used in a market analysis, a risk analysis and an analysis of the registration procedure. Using one-on-one interviews, the stakeholders of the entire crop protection chain were involved. Finally, literature and internet studies, analysis of business economic data, and surveys with choice experiments were also conducted.


This project has produced several highly valuable results. Numerous potential biocontrol viruses have been identified, active against diseases and pests in important crops such as grape, tomato and roses, among others. We have visualized the interaction between viruses and harmful fungi, bacteria and pests and their microbiomes. Like the intestinal flora of humans, the microbiome of fungi and insects stands in for necessary functions. The interaction of viruses with these necessary microorganisms reveals numerous new application possibilities. In addition, important insights have also been gained into the crop protection market, crop protection chain (interactions and influences between stakeholders), the major obstacles and driving factors of virus-based crop protection (concerns acceptance, risks, legislation, etc.) and the expectations of end users (product characteristics, information, etc.). Among other things, it appears that informing consumers is necessary. Growers value efficacy as well as health risks and ease of use. Pitfruit appears to be an important market for new virus-based crop protection products. In short, we expect that these results can make an important contribution to the further development of virus-based crop protection products and their subsequent market introduction.

Funding provider(s)
EU Horizon2020
Effective start/end date1/05/1831/10/21

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