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Co-ordination of research on genetic resistance to control plant pathogenic viruses and their vectors in European crops

Final Report Summary - RESISTVIR (Co-ordination of research on genetic resistance to control plant pathogenic viruses and their vectors in European crops)

During the last decades and connected to intensification of agricultural practices, climate alteration (with a direct impact on their vector organisms), and extensive exchange of plant material in the global market, there has been an overall increase in the incidence of plant virus diseases. Compared to other plant pathogens, viruses are particularly difficult to combat. Producers often attempt to limit virus induced diseases by using pesticides to control virus vectors. This measure is generally inefficient, particularly for viruses that are transmitted by insects in a non-persistent manner, environmentally undesirable and has the potential to affect food quality. A more sustainable approach to the control of virus-induced diseases is through the use of cultivars that are genetically resistant to viruses. This practice provides effective protection, does not require any additional cost or action on the part of the producer, is environmentally friendly and safe for the consumer. Genetic resistance (achieved through conventional breeding or as Genetically modified (GM) crops) is the most effective way to control plant pathogenic viruses / vectors.

The focus of the RESISTVIR project was to coordinate and to integrate research into new ways to control plant viral diseases and their vectors by developing and promoting durable genetic resistance in crops. There is great pressure on public organisations, biotechnology, agrochemical and plant breeding companies across Europe to develop new and durable resistant lines. In this context, this project brought together research institutes, the plant breeding industry, universities and specialists to elucidate the state-of-the-art, to encourage new ways to develop durable genetic resistance, and to raise awareness of European excellence in this field. Identifying and transferring the ideas currently at academic level to the biotechnology sector will help to achieve this. RESISTVIR also provided insights into where research and coordination are likely to be particularly relevant in the future, and brought all European states up to the same level in knowledge and technology.

RESISTVIR has provided for the first time a pan-European collaborative framework among stakeholders (researchers, Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), legislators) for issues related directly or indirectly to plant virology. Over the duration of the project RESISTVIR coordinated, integrated and disseminated past and emerging research results, to provide a picture of progress and insights into future trends and European activities, with the purpose of enabling the European Commission (EC) to achieve the strategic objective of using genetic resistance as a tool to control plant pathogenic viruses.

The network had a challenging programme of results to deliver. Some 50 deliverables have been released over the whole duration of the project, and most of them have been made publicly available on the website, this being more accessible and informative than scientific papers for the wider public. Several important outcomes were obtained, which will significantly inform policy makers, funding agencies, academia and industry as to new ways to develop durable genetic resistance systems. Especially, the work will raise awareness of European excellence in this field and provide an up-to-date foundation for the EC to establish future research policy.

The impact of the work of the consortium has been recognised through the agreement to publish various of the work package outputs in internationally refereed journals and by continuing interest in the consortium as a repository of expertise. An excellent example of the latter is a commission from Horizon Scientific Press for the production of a state-of-the-art book on current innovations in the field of molecular interactions between plants, viruses and vectors (delivery late 2009). We expect the RESISTVIR webpage, which will be maintained by INRA beyond the duration of the project, to be an ongoing specialised reference source for a broad spectrum of international interests in this field.