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Headlines Published on 4 April 2008

Title Project tackles devastating stone-fruit disease

Threats to the productivity and fruit quality of the Prunus species, which includes plum and peach trees, intensify when the Sharka disease rears its ugly head. Also known as the Plum pox virus (PPV), Sharka is a global problem for which no chemical or biological curative treatment exists. Now, a new EUR 3 million EU-funded project 'Sharka Containment European’ (SharCo) aims to tackle the disease head on.

Sun-kissed peaches © Shutterstock
Sun-kissed peaches
© Shutterstock

Coordinated by the French National Institute for Agriculture Research (INRA), the project will run for four years and will bring together a team of leading experts from 12 European and North American countries. 'This alliance of researchers at an international level will allow us to make significant gains in learning about this disease, and help establish an integrated strategy that can be used in all countries,' explains François Houllier, INRA scientific director for Plants and Plant Products.

Sharka can wreak serious economic havoc. When diseased, chloritic rings appear on the fruits and leaves, causing them to lose shape or fall from the trees too soon. The infected fruit also lose their sugar content and cannot be sold. Current measures to fight this disease include monitoring orchards and nurseries and using clean or certified planting equipment.

The SharCo team will develop integrated disease-fighting strategies to prevent the spread of Sharka. This will include developing systems to detect, assess and take appropriate measures if unknown strains emerge in Europe. The project partners will also look at creating resistant varieties. The project will cover the entire chain of production, from the seedlings and scions to orchard management. SharCo will also centre its activity on implementing these systems.

From an epidemiology perspective, SharCo will identify the factors that lead to the spread of PPV, as well as the diversification and development of new and high-throughput detection systems that will warn of Sharka outbreaks. From a genetics perspective, molecular markets for the implementation of marker-assisted selection of PPV-resistant fruit varieties will be provided. The SharCo team will also evaluate innovative biotechnological approaches to extend PPV resistance in various fruit tree species.

The goal of the project is to create Sharka risk management systems throughout Europe to reinforce existing policies, with the participation of each Member State's fruit and plant protection networks. The strategies developed by the project will be shared among all concerned stakeholders, including breeders, nurserymen, fruit producers, and plant protection services.

More information:

  • IRNA
  • EU and Agriculture

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