Viroplant project: viruses to protect plants
The project called Viroplant was launched in 2018 with the aim of exploiting genetic diversity of the viruses that affect pathogens and parasites, in order to develop highly-specific control instruments based on natural elements.
The intent is to implement a biotechnological strategy to protect plants from pathogens by using viruses, thus addressing social acceptability and environmental safety.
In particular, the project will address two key diseases in the Italian agri-food context, including flavescence dorée of vine and bacterial kiwifruit disease, powdery and downy mildews of vine, which require a number of chemical interventions.
Research on the positive role of viruses in maintaining an ecosystem has been conducted for 25 years, and also focuses on the symbiotic relationship between viruses and hosts, which provide the latter with a higher level of resistance and a reduction in the viral load of other pathogens.
In a phytohealthcare setting, viruses could help meet increasing requests by consumers looking for products without residues from chemical processing.
With a budget of 3 million euro, the Viroplant project is included in Responsible Research & Innovation (RRI) and involves 17 participants from 9 European countries.
Italy is involved with the CNR Institute for Sustainable Plant Protection as project coordinator, the Department of Sociology and Social Research and the Master in Communication of Science and Sustainable Innovation (MaCSIS) of the University of Milano-Bicocca and AGRION, the foundation for research, innovation and technological development of agriculture in Piedmont.