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The bacterium Xylella fastidiosa was found on the ornamental shrub Polygala myrtifolia in Corsica in 2015. © Wikimedia commons, Yellow cat & A Barra

INRA mobilizes research efforts against Xylella fastidiosa

By Patricia Léveillé, Julie Cheriguene, translated by Jessica Pearce
Updated on 10/20/2015
Published on 08/20/2015

This summer, the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa was found in Corsica. There is great concern about the damage it could cause to the island’s shrubs and trees. INRA researchers are taking part in control efforts.

A strain of Xylella fastidiosa multiplex detected in Corsica

The bacterium Xylella fastidiosa has become known as “the olive-tree killer” because of the deadly outbreak it recently caused in Italy. At the end of July, it was found on ornamental shrubs in southern Corsica. French farmers are worried about this development, given the damage the species has caused to various crops around the world - grapevines in the US, coffee bushes and citrus trees in Central and South America, and aforementioned olive trees in Italy. Following X. fastidiosa’s detection in Corsica, eradication efforts were initiated and an on-site fact-finding mission was organized by the French Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry, which brought together experts from INRA and ANSES. This mission has just come to an end. INRA and ANSES are continuing to work together to study this “fastidious” bacterium, which has proven difficult to culture in the lab. The goal is threefold: to garner knowledge about X. fastidiosa’s different subspecies and strains; to characterize potential host plants; and to identify the insect vectors responsible for the bacterium’s dissemination.  

The strain detected in Corsica belongs to the subspecies X. fastidiosa multiplex, whereas the subspecies that is destroying the olive trees of Apulia in Italy is X. fastidiosa pauca. INRA researchers from the division of Plant Health and Environment are on the front lines in efforts to combat this bacterium. Their work has three main goals: (1) to better understand the epidemiology of X. fastidiosa; (2) to describe the interactions occurring between X. fastidiosa and the plants it infects at the cellular level; and (3) to identify the bacterium’s insect vectors as part of risk-assessment efforts.

Scientific contact(s):

  • Scientific contact: Marie-Agnès Jacques, Research Institute for Horticultureand Seeds (IRHS), INRA Angers-Nantes
  • Jean-Yves Rasplus, Joint Research Unit: Centre for Biology and Population Management, INRA Montpellier
  • Thierry Candresse, Joint Research Unit for Fruit Biology and Pathology, INRA Bordeaux-Aquitaine
Associated Division(s):
Plant Health and Environment, Plant Biology and Breeding
Associated Centre(s):
Pays de la Loire, Occitanie-Montpellier, Corsica, Nouvelle-Aquitaine-Bordeaux
Associated Unit(s):
Research Institute for Horticulture and Seeds, Centre for Biology and Population Management, Joint Research Unit for Fruit Biology and Pathology