Save tomatoes and cucurbits | VIRTIGATION kick-off event

Entitled “Emerging viral diseases in tomatoes and cucurbits: Implementation of mitigation strategies for durable disease management”, the VIRTIGATION project, an EU-funded Research & Innovation (R&I) action, officially kicked off on the 15th-16th of June 2021. VIRTIGATION will run for 4 years, starting on the 1st of June 2021 and will be implemented by an international consortium of 25 partners.

The project is coordinated by the Department of Biosystems at Katholieke Universiteit (KU) Leuven (Belgium). With a secured EU contribution of nearly 7 Mio EUR, VIRTIGATION partners from Europe, Israel, Morocco and India will develop innovative solutions to tackle emerging viral diseases caused by begomoviruses (whitefly-transmitted) and tobamoviruses (mechanically transmitted) on tomatoes and cucurbits in Northern Europe and the Mediterranean basin.

Specifically, the project will seek to protect tomatoes and cucurbits from the devastating begomoviruses called ToLCNDV (Tomato Leaf Curl New Delhi Virus) and TYLCV (Tomato Yellow Leaf Curl Virus), as well as the tobamovirus known as ToBRFV (Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus). VIRTIGATION operates under the Horizon 2020 program to address new and emerging risks to plant health, thereby contributing to sustainable food security.

VIRTIGATION held its kick-off meeting on the 15th-16th of June 2021 as a virtual meeting, due to the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions imposed by national authorities across the globe. Although partners couldn’t meet personally, an international cooperation was successfully established in the virtual kick-off meeting.

The project coordinator Mr. Hervé Vanderschuren (KU Leuven) facilitated the meeting, which was attended by 59 participants from the 25 research organisations, industrial and agricultural extension services partners. Guido Guidetti, EU project officer from the Research Executive Agency, also attended the meeting and reminded VIRTIGATION partners of their contractual responsibilities and obligations in implementing the project under Grant Agreement No. 101000570.

Furthermore, Gisela Quaglia, Research Programme Officer in the EU Commission (EC) Directorate-General for Agriculture & Rural Development, presented the policy context and expectations for the VIRTIGATION project. Panagiota Mylona from the Plant Health Unit of the EC Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety, concluded the presentations from EU officials by outlining the legislative background on the plant pests addressed by the project. All congratulated the VIRTIGATION members on successfully launching the project and wished for fruitful and productive collaboration.

In the remainder of the kick-off meeting, the Work Package leaders then presented the objectives, methodology and work to be carried out.

In VIRTIGATION, the RTDS Association (Austria) leads the WP6 on dissemination, exploitation and communication. RTDS Association is also involved in the overall management (WP7) of the project, where it leads data management and innovation management.

The VIRTIGATION members are at the forefront of efforts to safeguard tomatoes and cucurbits as vital staple foods in European fields and greenhouses.

Project partners:
  1. KU Leuven (Belgium)

  2. De Ceuster Meststoffen (Belgium)

  3. Fundacion para las tecnologias auxiliares de la agricultura (Spain)

  4. Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (Luxembourg)

  5. University of Greenwich (United Kingdom)

  6. Agencia estatal consejo superior de investigaciones cientificas (Spain)

  7. Centre de recerca en agrigenomica CSIC-IRTA-UAB-UB (Spain)

  8. Universita degli studi di Catania (Italy)

  9. Wageningen University (Netherlands)

  10. Stichting Wageningen Research (Netherlands)

  11. Institut national de recherche pour l’agriculture, l’alimentation et l’environnement (France)

  12. EMWEB (Belgium)

  13. The Agricultural Research Organisation of Israel – The Volcani Centre (Israel)

  14. Proefcentrum Hoogstraten (Belgium)

  15. Association Provençale de recherche et d’experimentation legumiere (France)

  16. Julius Kuhn-Institut Bundesforschungsinstitut für Kulturpflanzen (Germany)

  17. Syngenta France SAS (France)

  18. Scientia Terrae (Belgium)

  19. Huerta Valle Hibri2 SL (Spain)

  20. Agencia de gestion agraria y pesquera de Andalucia (Spain)

  21. Landwirtschaftskammer Nordrhein-Westfalen (Germany)

  22. STE Maraissa SA (Morocco)

  23. RTDS Association (Austria)

  24. Corteva Agriscience Italia SRL (Italy)

  25. The University of Agricultural Sciences Bengaluru (India, international partner of KU Leuven)

Additional information:

Cordis: Project No. 101000570

Stay tuned for the project website and social media channels launch in September 2021.