The University of Salford are planning to stop the plant disease Xylella Fastidiosa from entering the UK.

What is the bacterium?

Xylella Fastidiosa is a bacterium that is spread by insects. The insects feed into a plant and the bacteria infects it. The bacterium has been found in North America and South America for a long time. For example, in California the disease has affected grapes, therefore the wine industry.

It was found in Europe in 2013 for the first time. In the south of Italy, it was found on Olive trees and there are concerns that it could spread through to the UK.

What is being done about it?

However, the University of Salford is in partnership with 10 other organisations to combat the disease. The project has been given £5m to fund research into the bacterium and how to prevent its entry into the UK.

Dr Stephen Parnell is an epidemiologist from the University of Salford  and he said that “The project is looking at all sorts of different aspects. Here at Salford, we are developing computer models to see how the disease can spread through landscapes.

“If we can figure out where and when it might spread to, then we can target our surveillance to those areas.”

Impacts of Xylella Fastidiosa of Oleander Leaf Scorch plant

Not much is known about the bacterium, and therefore a lot of research is needed.

Stephen added “We need to understand this bacterium more. This pathogen is new to Europe so it’s not been studied that well.

“It’s a very diverse pathogen and has loads of sub-species.

“There’s a lot we don’t know about it so this funding is needed if we want to solve the problem.

The bacterium Xylella Fastidiosa is very complex and difficult to combat. For example, a plant can have the disease but show no symptoms for up to a year. Therefore it could be infecting the plant, but it is hidden in plain sight.

Another worrying aspect is that this bacterium can infect over 550 different plant species such as grapes, citrus, olives and oak trees.

However Dr Stephen Parnell feels positive that the research can prevent the spread of the disease:

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