Tomatoes and cucurbits are among the most produced crops in the world, but are increasingly under threat by emerging viral diseases caused by begomoviruses (whitefly-transmitted) and tobamoviruses (mechanically transmitted). To date, there are no rapid and lasting organic remedies on the market to tackle the devastation caused by these plant pests. Therefore, VIRTIGATION will develop a broad range of solutions, including vaccines for the plants, biopesticides against virus vectors and integrated pest management (IPM) strategies, to tackle these deadly viruses. 


H2020 | RIA


€ 7.36 million

Start date



48 months

Project details

The challenge

The most threatening viruses which are becoming widespread across Northern Europe and the Mediterranean basin are the 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). Due to their rapid transmission in European fields and greenhouses, these plant pests are very difficult to control and can lead to complete crop loss in affected areas.

To mitigate these viruses, producers are prompted to use pesticides, thereby exposing European growers and consumers to pesticide residues. Several European countries have been in the grip of ToLCNDV, TYLCV and ToBRFV in the past years, among them Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Germany and the UK. But not only Europe has been affected: tomato and cucurbit crops have also been ravaged in Israel, Morocco and India, making it thereby a truly global challenge to address.

To date, no rapid and lasting organic solutions exists on the market to combat these viruses, thereby putting the tomato and cucurbit value chain at risk.

The solution

VIRTIGATION aims to develop a set of natural remedies to safeguard tomato and cucurbit fields and greenhouses from the emerging viral diseases caused by begomoviruses and tobamoviruses. The project will propose and demonstrate three innovative solutions, including vaccines for the plants, biopesticides against virus vectors, as well as IPM strategies.

The project will also enable a deeper understanding of plant-virus-vector interactions, taking into consideration the impacts caused by climate change. It will also develop advanced diagnostic tools to enable the early detection of virus variants, and identify conditions and factors conducive to outbreaks. VIRTIGATION will further develop novel methods to contain viruses and their vectors, including biological treatments to limit transmission, cross-protection strategies as well as natural resistances. At the end of its lifetime, the project’s proposed solutions will have been validated in industrially relevant field trials (Technology Readiness Level – TRL 5).

The main impacts

In the long-run, VIRTIGATION aims to reduce tomato and cucurbit crop losses stemming from viral diseases by 80%, with even eradicating crop losses in Europe and Israel. Moreover, the project seeks to cut in half, or even totally eliminate in some circumstances, the use of pesticides as mitigation measure to control viruses and their vectors. Specifically, the VIRTIGATION project will:

  • Enable understanding the drivers of plant virus emergence and spread, including the impacts of climate change, thanks to the novel online analysis tool Genome Detection Platform.
  • Develop efficient tools to prevent, detect and control plant pests/diseases, including through diagnostic tests, online tracking and tracing and full genome sequencing.
  • Develop organic and long-lasting IPM strategies to control both viruses and their vectors.
  • Reduce economic, social and environmental losses, by training the value chain (including farmers) in using virus- and vector-control measures such as resistant varieties, vaccines and disinfection.
  • Support EU plant health data management and policies, by creating a network on emerging plant virus detection, and providing knowledge and advisory tools to growers and other stakeholders across the globe through a comprehensive multi-actor approach.


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 101000570

Information and views set out across this project are those of the Consortium and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion or position of the European Union. Neither European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use that may be made of the information contained herein. .