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Xylella fastidiosa: risk to EU plants assessed

Xylella fastidiosa has affected more than 300 species of cultivated and wild plants in the world and is transmitted by certain types of sap-sucking hopper insects

The EFSA Panel on Plant Health conducted a pest risk assessment and an evaluation of risk reduction options for Xylella fastidiosa. X. fastidiosa has been detected in olive in the EU with a distribution restricted to the region of Apulia in Italy and is under official control.

X. fastidiosa has a very broad host range, including many common cultivated and wild plants. All xylem fluid-feeding insects in Europe are considered to be potential vectors. Philaenus spumarius (Hemiptera: Aphrophoridae), a polyphagous spittlebug widespread in the whole risk assessment area, has been identified as a vector in Apulia.

The probability of entry of Xylella fastidiosa from countries where X. fastidiosa is reported is very high with plants for planting and moderate with infectious insect vectors carried with plant commodities or travelling as stowaways. Establishment and spread in the EU is very likely. The consequences are considered to be major because yield losses and other damage would be high and require costly control measures.

The systematic use of insecticides for vector control may create environmental impacts.

With regard to risk reduction options, strategies for the prevention of introduction and for the containment of outbreaks should focus on the two main pathways (plants for planting and infectious insect vectors) and combine the most effective options in an integrated approach. For plants for planting, these could be pest-free production areas, surveillance, certification, screened greenhouse production, vector control and testing for infection and, for some plant species, treatments (e.g. thermotherapy).

To prevent entry of the infectious vectors, insecticide treatments and inspection of consignments and production sites are required.

The Panel has also reviewed the effectiveness of risk reduction options for Xylella fastidiosa and its vectors listed in Directive 2000/29/EC and in the EU emergency measures.

The Panel recommends the continuation and intensification of research on the host range, epidemiology and control of the Apulian outbreak.

by S. C.
12 january 2015, Technical Area > Olive & Oil

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