Pre-HLB is a project funded by the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme whose objective is to prevent the entry of Huanglongbing disease (HLB) into Europe and, if it occurs, to prepare the necessary mechanisms for its effective control in the short, medium and long term. The Pre-HLB project, launched in Faro on 23 and 24 July 2019 with the assistance of all consortium members, has a grant of 8,001,690 euros and will be developed over the next four years.
The Institute of Molecular and Cellular Plant Biology (IBMCP), a joint center of the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC) and the Universitat Politècnica de València, are coordinating this European project, with the collaboration of 24 other partners from nine
countries in Europe, America and Asia.
Huanglongbing disease, native to Southeast Asia, has spread in just over a decade to almost every citrus-growing region of the world. China, Florida (USA) and Brazil, the world's largest citrus producers, are affected by HLB and suffer significant economic losses. HLB is caused by three species of bacteria of the genus Candidatus Liberibacter, transmitted by the insects Trioza erytreae and Diaphorina citri. Both insects have been detected in the Azores, in the Canary Islands and in the Iberian Peninsula. Although the bacteria causing HLB have not yet been detected in the European Union, the risk of entry is high, due to the enormous circulation of goods and people, as well as the illegal imports of plant material from citrus and ornamental citrus relatives.
"Experience in other regions indicates that once an insect dispersing the HLB is present, as soon as the causative bacterium enters, the spread of the disease is unstoppable. It is therefore urgent to take the necessary measures to prevent the introduction of HLB in Europe and, if it does occur, to detect and eradicate it quickly," adds Leandro Peña.
The first measures proposed in the Pre-HLB project are informative, to raise awareness of the existence of HLB and its aggressiveness, as well as to train citrus growers in the identification of symptoms. At the same time, attempts will be made to prevent the arrival of the bacteria by identifying and inspecting the critical entry points, and the presence and dispersion of vectors will be monitored. In a second stage, Trioza erytreae dispersion models will be established in different areas of the EU to predict its movement, as well as farm management models to fight against HLB. New insect control tools and early diagnosis techniques will be developed.
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