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Italy: Inspections in ports and airports to prevent spread of citrus fruit diseases

Over the past few years, Sicilian citrus fruit cultivation has had to deal with diseases such as the CTV-Citrus Tristeza Virus, which continues to decimate the most ancient groves. 

Dr. Paola Caruso, researcher from CREA-OFA di Acireale (CT)

Groves resistant to the Virus are replacing the old ones thanks to new rootstocks, so production is sort of going back to normal.

However, not everything is solved as a new menace might affect not only Sicily but the entire Mediterranean basin. We are talking about the spreading of the citrus bacterial canker (CBC) in the Mediterranean area through unregulated Rutaceae ornamental species.

CBC hasn't been reported in Europe so far. It is considered an organism to quarantine, so preventive measures must be adopted to avoid introducing infected plant material.

The ORPRAMed European project has been implemented to study the risk and probability of introduction. Coordinated by CREA-OFA Acireale (CT) researcher Paola Caruso, it was subjected to review at Agropolis International in Montpellier (France.)

"The scientific community appreciated the safety measures we will introduce in the main Italian ports and airports. They will also work as a tool to raise awareness among travellers so that they refrain from introducing even the smallest branch of a plant (including ornamental ones), especially if it comes from a citrus fruit producer country."

CBC: serious infection might lead to significant droppings (photo by J. Cubero INIA Madrid, Spain)

"The risk is not only that of introducing CBC, but also the more dangerous HLB (Huanglongbing or citrus greening), one of the most ancient and destructive citrus fruit diseases, known for well over a century in China. It could lead to the total destruction of our citrus fruit."

Together with Lucia Zappalà from UniCT and Selene Baschieri from Enea in Roma, the Sicilian researcher showed the efficiency of the Italian scientific community, which is on the same level as the international one.

It is worth stressing that research units working the the Ministries of Agriculture and Universities of Italy, France, Spain and Turkey are part of ORPRAMed.

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