ISSUE 03 February 2017


Effective Management of Pests

and Harmful Alien Species: Integrated Solutions


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This project has been funded under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation

programme under grant agreement N° 634179.

ISSUE 03 February 2017




Neil Boonham, Fera Science Limited,

WP2 leader

In the UK, the public’s perception of

biosecurity is probably influenced by age.

My grandmother remembers Colorado

beetle posters, requesting people to take

any suspect beetles to their local police

station (or, like the one illustrated here, to

send them to the Ministry of Agriculture).

Similarly, my parents can remember what

an elm tree looked like before Dutch

elm disease removed 50 million trees

from the UK landscape. More recently,

people have become aware of how

sudden oak death and ash dieback may

also change our landscape, as both have

made the headlines in our daily news.

It’s disappointing to someone working in

the field of plant health to see that it’s

only our failures that make the news —

although I suppose this is because success

often looks like nothing has happened.

Furthermore, it seems that the public

are far less engaged in plant health now

than they were in previous generations,

although this may say more about our

connections to the great outdoors than

plant health itself. If this is the case it’s

particularly worrying, since pests and

diseases don’t just have an impact on

trees and landscapes: our crops are

equally at risk from invasive and endemic

threats. Forecasts predict that the global

population will grow to over 9 billion by

2050. Put simply, this will mean that we

need to grow as much food in the next 40 years

as we have over the last 10,000 years. This

is a daunting challenge, considering it will

have to be done in the face of climate

change, decreased resource availability,

and the alarming build-up of resistance

to crop protection products in most of the

pests, diseases and weeds we are trying

to control.

But what does this have to do with the

EMPHASIS project? I am working with

project colleagues in various European

countries to develop better surveillance

systems for crop pests and diseases. We

hope that, by spotting pests and diseases

earlier, we will have a better chance

of controlling them. Of course, we are

doing this Europe-wide, because pests

and diseases don’t respect borders — so

don’t get me started on Brexit! The point

of detection is to trigger action, so it’s

important to integrate detection with

effective control measures. These are

aspirations that the EMPHASIS project

should be well placed to achieve, through

efforts across the different work packages.

Now that we are halfway through the

project, it’s tempting to start wondering

where the next project will come from,

but it’s also important to think about the

legacy of this one. What will the project

leave behind as tangible outcomes in

the minds of the public, policy makers

and other stakeholders? For this reason,

it’s nice to see that the agenda for the

next project meeting encompasses the

building of business plans for technology

exploitation, the constant buzz on twitter

created by Moverim, and the delivery

of further technological learning labs

achieving direct engagement between

scientists and end users, which should

focus on innovation and achieve the faster

uptake of project developments. All these

activities are critical in enabling us to

create a significant and lasting impact —

something that I and other colleagues in

WP2 are very passionate about.



ISSUE 03 February 2017



Eleventh Meeting of

the International Pest

Risk Research Group

Ottawa, Canada

August 29 –

September 1, 2017

The International Pest Risk Research Group (IPRRG)

will host the meeting in association with the Canadian

Food Inspection Agency. The event is relevant to the

current mid-term research outcome of the EMPHASIS

project, and in particular to an integrated approach to

pest management for end users.

Further details can be found on the IPRRG website:




summer school

Cambridge, UK

July 10–14, 2017

The first EMPHASIS summer school will be hosted by

the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) in

Cambridge, UK. The course will focus on integrated

solutions for pest and disease control in arable and

horticultural crops. It will use project outputs and

information, but also include additional approaches

and systems used on farms to mitigate against pests

and diseases. There will be sessions on fungicide and

pesticide use, diagnostics and disease forecasting,

biocontrol, cultural approaches and the deployment

of host crop resistance. Exploring the ways in which

growers move to alternative or new pest and disease

control methods, and the barriers they may face, will

be the basis of a further session, reflecting the remit

of EMPHASIS to engage the producer community

and promote the translation of research outputs into

practical methods. The week-long course is aimed

at postgraduate students and early-stage industry

entrants, and there will be some “hands-on” practical

classes as well as talks and a farm visit.

Delegates will need to pay their own travel and

accommodation costs, but course teaching and

materials are free. To register initial interest, please

contact jane.thomas@niab.com. A full programme

will be available soon.



project consortium


Brno, Czech Republic

May 16–19, 2017

The EMPHASIS General Assembly and the Executive

Committee's fourth meeting will be held at Mendel

University in Brno. EMPHASIS has been proposed as

a beneficiary of the Common Exploitation Booster

support services offered by the European Commission

H2020 Common Support Centre. In addition to the

regular General Assembly meeting, a business plan

development workshop will therefore be held, led

by an external consultant appointed by the European

Commission: LC Innoconsult International (Hungary).



ISSUE 03 February 2017


Wheat stem rust

threat in the


Basin in the 2017

crop season

Extensive lab tests of wheat stem rust samples

have shown that the 2016 stem rust epidemics

in Sicily were caused by a new, highly virulent

variant of race TTTTF. The samples were

collected from durum wheat and bread wheat in

Sicily between April and June 2016.

The epidemics are estimated to have covered

several thousands of hectares, resulting in a

high inoculum load that could pose a threat to

surrounding wheat areas in the forthcoming

2017 crop season, if environmental conditions

prove suitable. Growers in vulnerable areas

should be aware of the possible risk to both

durum and bread wheat; monitor their crops

for the early appearance of stem rust; and

undertake timely control where necessary.

Unusual, early stem rust infections (at heading

stage) were first detected on April 19, 2016, in

experimental plots in Ciminna, in the province of

Palermo. High and unusual levels of yellow rust

were also observed. It is not known whether

rust was extensively present in the surrounding

areas prior to this first detection. Low levels of

stem rust had been observed in Ciminna at

the end of the previous season (June 2015),

and a mild winter may have contributed to the

early infections in 2016. The majority of wheat

breeding lines being tested in Ciminna showed

high susceptibility to both rust diseases.

Field surveys in the provinces of Palermo,

Agrigento, Trapani and Caltanissetta showed an

estimated area of 20,000 to 30,000 hectares

infected with yellow and stem rust. Yellow rust

appeared first and was the more severe in many

cases. The highest incidence and severity of

stem rust was observed in Palermo province

(40 to 60 percent average severity, and an

incidence of more than 50 percent in inspected

fields), followed by Agrigento (30 to 40 percent

average severity) and Caltanissetta

(20 to 30 percent average severity). Stem rust

was recorded with low severity and incidence in

Trapani, and also reported in Catania and Enna.

The 2016 stem rust outbreak in Sicily was one

of the largest stem rust outbreaks in Europe in

several decades.

The extensive area infected by stem rust in 2016

will have produced a huge number of spores,

making both dispersal and persistence into the

2017 season likely. Over-winter survival and

suitability for early infection are both critical

determinants, but are currently unknown

factors. However, it is certain that large areas

will have been planted with susceptible varieties

in 2016/17. Major regional commercial durum

wheat varieties are known to be susceptible,

but many bread wheat varieties may also be

vulnerable. If stem rust race TTTTF persists, and if

environmental conditions are conducive to early

infection, there could be a real risk of repeated

outbreaks in the 2017 crop season.

The transition of the spore represents a high risk

in the Mediterranean region. Dispersal patterns

show a general tendency in spore movement

in a northeast to southeast arc. Areas with the

highest probability of spore deposition include

Sicily and the southern regions of Italy (especially

the extreme southwest), but there is also a slight

risk in countries on the eastern seaboard of the

Adriatic (western Greece, Albania, Montenegro,

Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia),

along with northern Libya and northeast Tunisia.

Based on the observed stem and yellow rust

outbreak, the following recommendations can

be made:

• Farmers and relevant authorities/institutions

should be aware of the risk of stem and yellow

rust on susceptible varieties in 2017.

• Early and regular scouting should be

undertaken in areas at risk, and on susceptible


• Farmers should be aware of recommended

control practices for stem rust and undertake

early control using registered fungicides. If stem

rust appears at an early growth stage, then timely

control is critical if losses are to be avoided.

• Any stem rust outbreaks should be reported

to relevant authorities.

• Screening of varieties for resistance against

new races should be undertaken, and varieties

most susceptible to rust should be avoided.

For more information, please contact

Dr. Dave Hodson (CIMMYT) or

Professor Mogens Hovmller (GRRC, Denmark).



ISSUE 03 February 2017


Neil Boonham, Fera Science Limited (Fera), WP2 leader

The aim of WP2 is to explore various

methods for the early detection of pests

and diseases, with the ultimate goal of

deploying them in the field for a range

of applications. Technology readiness

levels (TRLs) were developed by NASA

in the 1970s as a way of tracking the

many and varied developments within

the space programme, and identifying

how far from deployment they were.

Modified in the 1990s, the TRL scale

now runs from 1 (basic science) to 9

(ready for deployment). We have been

adapting the TRL scale for diagnostic

science and utilising it to monitor how

close technologies are from real-world

use — or indeed how much more

investment in time and money they may

need to achieve this. We specifically

included technologies within the

EMPHASIS work programme that span

the TRL scale, with the aim of ensuring

that some would make a real-world

impact during the project, while others

would make significant progress on the

journey towards deployment. The aim

is to provide a structured approach to

monitoring technology developments,

which we believe will speed up the

deployment of methods in the real

world; give us a better understanding of

how much investment may be needed in

a technology; and, in some cases, enable

us to see when we should pause or even

stop working on a technology. The TRL

scale also provides a common language

to use when discussing technology

with funders and policy makers. So

what are the technologies, and how are

developments progressing?

The first technology we have been

working on is Loop-mediated

amplification (LAMP), a fast and robust

DNA amplification technique that is

well suited to diagnostics. It can be

seen as a faster and simpler version of

the polymerase chain reaction (PCR)

approach. We have been working

with LAMP for some years and it is

already being used (i.e. TRL 9) by the

UK and Swiss inspection services to

identify several notifiable insect pests

at airports, enabling consignments

to clear customs more quickly. In this

project, we aim to develop more LAMP

tests for a range of applications where

they have not previously been used,

such as testing in arable crops (NIAB)

and horticultural crops (UNITO) for

quarantine (Fera) and non-quarantine

organisms. In addition, we are exploring

seed testing: Sara Franco-Ortega

(UNITO) is currently working in this area

in the Fera labs on diseases in rice. Of

course, to reach deployment you also

need a robust platform on which to run

the DNA amplification, which is why

Optisense is included as part of the

consortium. Michael Andreou’s team

is making further developments to the

Genie hardware and software to improve

the quality of the results and make the

system easier and more intuitive for

diagnosticians to use. We expect to have

a large number of tests in kit format on

the market for use by diagnostic labs

before the end of the project.

In the field of surveillance, we are

exploring traditional biological

approaches as well as some postgenomic

technologies. The work on

biological surveillance is being led

by Jane Thomas (NIAB), who has

successfully set up a network of sentinel

plots with other EMPHASIS partners.

The technology is established and

being used (TRL 9) in EMPHASIS to trap

airborne cereal diseases ahead of them

becoming established in crops more


The next-generation sequencing

approach is starting to look extremely

promising, with the adoption of

the MinIon (Oxford Nanopore Ltd.)

sequencing system. One of the significant

challenges to using DNA meta-barcoding

for species identification is that most

next-generation sequencing platforms

produce only very short sequences, yet

the DNA barcodes developed for the

identification of pests and pathogens in

projects such as Q-BOL are much longer.

This ultimately means that compromises

are being made, in our ability either to

amplify the conserved gene or to match

the sequence to a known species in

the database. The MinIon sequencer,

however, produces DNA sequences

that are far longer, enabling full DNA

barcoding genes to be amplified and

sequenced. Our initial data show that

this approach has significant potential,

and we have already reached TRL 4

in a short space of time. Further work

is planned to explore the use of this

technology for insect pests (Fera) as well

as fungal pathogens, working with Sara

Franco-Ortega and Davide Spadaro from

Prof. Lodovica Gullino’s group (UNITO).



ISSUE 03 February 2017



EMPHASIS third consortium

meeting and first review


Szentendre, Hungary

October 11–14, 2016

The consortium meeting brought

together project experts to discuss the

progress made and results achieved in

the first 18 months of the project.

Day one of the event saw the first of the

project’s socio-technological learning

labs (SLLs), in the form of a study visit to

the Centre for Agricultural Research in

Martonvasar, where discussions focused

on plant health issues experienced

by local farmers and agricultural


On day two, the project’s work packages

had a chance to review their activities

since the last project meeting and

begin planning follow-up actions for the

forthcoming period.

October 13 and 14 were then dedicated

to a detailed overview of each work

package, including the implementation

of actions (with an assessment of

deliverables and reports); compliance

with obligations under the agreement;

and the continued scientific and

technological relevance of project

activities, as part of the review meeting

attended by the European Commission

project officer and by external reviewers.

The overall goal of the EMPHASIS project

is reflected well in the assessment

carried out by the external reviewers

in relation to integrated response

measures (practical solutions) for the

prediction and prevention of native and

alien pest threats, and for the protection

of European agricultural and forestry

sectors and natural ecosystems.

Further information is available on the

project website: emphasisproject.eu



training course

York, UK

November 10 –11, 2016

One of the aims in this project is to

generate real-world impact from the

science we are doing, and in WP2 we

aspire to bring to the market a range

of testing kits for plant pathogens and

pests. If the kits are to be used, it is

important to ensure that diagnostics

labs, inspectors and agronomists are

familiar with the technology and able

to use it when it is available. We have

implemented a variety of activities to

this end. The first was a webinar hosted

by Ed Haynes (Fera), who explained the

background of LAMP technology, how it

works, and its application in plant health

diagnostics. We are also planning to host

training courses in different countries,

each focusing on a different stakeholder

group. The courses cover everything

from background theory, practical handson

testing, the validation of assays, and

technology troubleshooting. The first

of the courses took place at Fera in

November 2016, involving 13 people

from six countries. We focused on

national plant protection organisations,

and participants were predominantly

from diagnostic laboratories, although

some plant health inspectors also took

part. Feedback from the course was

incredibly positive, and most participants

reported that they would use the system

in their laboratory if the appropriate

kits were available to facilitate this. This

is very positive, given the goal of the

EMPHASIS project to bring validated kits

to the market.



ISSUE 03 February 2017



First international

scientific workshop for

Baltic, Scandinavian and

other EU countries: Hogweed

(Heracleum spp.) containment

with integrated pest

management methods

Riga, Latvia

November 29, 2016

The aim of this EMPHASIS scientific

workshop was to share practical solutions

and transfer knowledge developed by

Integrētās Audzēšanas Skola (Latvia)

to stakeholders and project partners in

Baltic countries, Scandinavia and other

EU countries on controlling the invasive

alien species hogweed (Heracleum spp.)

in non-agricultural areas using new,

effective IPM methods.

The results of two EMPHASIS project

cropping seasons, developed in WP3,

were presented, along with practical

solutions and on-farm 2015/2016

experiments (WP4) demonstrating the

economic and environmental value of

integrated (biological, chemical and

mechanical) pest management methods

to control alien and native pests. The

workshop included a presentation on

EU possibilities for reaching important

results related to new, practical solutions

with the multidisciplinary interaction of


The workshop’s 76 participants,

representing nine countries (five of

them not EMPHASIS partners), included

scientists, landowners and foresters, as

well as representatives of municipalities,

service providers, industries and state

authorities. The active discussions among

stakeholders during the workshop and

accompanying poster session illustrated

the high level of interest in practical

solutions and the value of cooperation.

Latvāņu ierobežošana, izmantojot

integrētās augu aizsardzības metodes

2015. gada augusts 2016. gada jūlijs

Izmēģinājums iekārtots pēc ierosinājuma 12.04.2016


Integrētās Audzēšanas Skola

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 634179


Webinar on infield

diagnostics: “The genie and

the lamp”

Cambridge, UK

November 30, 2016

The event provided an introduction

to LAMP technology and its use in

the early detection of plant disease.

Loop-mediated amplification is a DNA

amplification technology that enables

rapid and sensitive detection and, when

run on the Genie III platform, enables the

detection of pests and diseases outside

of the laboratory at any point in the agrifood

chain where decisions are being




ISSUE 03 February 2017



The EMPHASIS project is developing

diverse technologies for the detection and

control of pests. An analytical framework

tool has been designed to coordinate

information on the attributes of these new

measures. EMPHASIS partners Imperial

College and Fera have begun elicitations

with developers to record the function,

performance and state of readiness of

each of the 60+ novel technologies in the

project. The elicitation uses performance

indicator scores in four different

categories: Cost and Management

Efficiency; Coherence and Relevance;

Efficacy for Control or Detection;

Environment and Sustainability. Each

score is given an uncertainty rating to

reflect the extent of knowledge or natural

variability that could affect the score. The

uncertainty rating is used to convert the

score into a visualised distribution, so the

elicitee can decide if this matches their

perceptions of a measure’s performance

for each indicator. The assessments create

an accessible database of control and

detection measures that will be updated

as development brings them closer to

market. Field validation data will be

compared with design expectations, and

relevant use indicators will be identified

for each technology.

Fig 1. Example output of scored distributions

for a notional measure for 10 indicators in

the Efficiency category.


The first technology that WP2 has been

working on is Loop-mediated amplification

(LAMP), a fast and robust DNA amplification

technique that is well suited to diagnostics.

It can be seen as a faster and simpler version

of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR)


In terms of surveillance, WP2 is exploring

traditional biological approaches, as well as

some post-genomic technologies. The work

on biological surveillance is being led by

Jane Thomas (NIAB), who has successfully

set up a network of sentinel plots with

other EMPHASIS partners. The technology

is established and being used in EMPHASIS

(TRL 9) to trap airborne cereal diseases

ahead of them becoming established in

crops more widely.



ISSUE 03 February 2017



Ash dieback, caused by the invasive

fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxineus

(anamorph Chalara fraxinea), is causing

serious problems in terms of the use of

European ash trees in forestry, as well as

in the urban environment. Ash dieback

is widely spread throughout Europe, and

there are no effective control methods

and measures available.

Infection trials were carried out to test

the resistance of selected species and

varieties of eight European and non-

European (American and Asian) ash trees.

For the inoculation trials, eight different

strains of H. fraxineus were applied. A

significant difference was observed in the

susceptibility of individual species of ash

in the infection trials. The susceptibility of

Asian and American species to infection

was also proved by the infection trials.

Hogweeds (Heracleum spp.) are invasive

plants listed in the EPPO A1/A2 lists.

Current control methods in EU and other

countries are mainly mechanical cutting

and the use of glyphosates with minimal

success. The objective is to develop new

and effective IPM methods to control

hogweeds within two to three years.

The new IPM technology for hogweed

eradication involves enriching the

biodiversity of native plants in the infested

area (biological method) in combination

with by the infection the use trials. of selective herbicides once

early in the season (active ingredients

registered in the EU, but never used to

control hogweeds). After one treatment

three years.

in early spring, the local flora is able to

take over the hogweed area after three

months, as shown in the table, with very

high efficacy compared to mechanical


ash in the infection trials. The susceptibility of Asian and American

Hogweeds (Heracleum spp.) are invasive plants listed in the EPPO A

in EU and other countries are mainly mechanical cutting and th

success. The objective is to develop new and effective IPM method

The new IPM technology for hogweed eradication involves enrichin

the infested area (biological method) in combination with the use

the season (active ingredients registered in the EU, but never use

treatment in early spring, the local flora is able to take over the ho

shown in the table, with very high efficacy compared to mechanical

Fig 2. A high efficacy rate of 80 to 98 percent

for the containment of H. sosnowskyi was

observed three months after treatment in

four locations in Latvia. In Amatas Novads,

the mechanical method achieved only

5 percent efficacy.


80 to




H. s

in L

Two weeks after

application: May 5, 2015,





Fig 3. Two weeks after application:

May 5, 2015, Dekšāres

Fig 4. Three months after application:

July 27, 2015, Dekšāres



ISSUE 03 February 2017



Several field trials were set up by WP4 to

fine tune practical solutions at farm level.

Agrobio, for example, continued a semi-field

greenhouse experiment in Spain with the

predatory bug Dicyphus tamaninii to control

white flies (Bemisia tabaci). White flies are

difficult to control because of resistance to

many insecticides, and the flies are vectors

for plant viruses. The predatory bugs that

are currently used can damage the plants

and fruit, and they also have problems

establishing themselves in the crop. The

predatory bug Dicyphus might be a good

alternative. In the experiment, Dicyphus is

compared with the currently used predator.

Up to now, both predators are very efficient

in controlling the white flies. The next stage

will be to see if the predators can handle

increased pest pressure.

Last month, the mating disruption product

of Semios was approved to control codling

moths in fruits and nuts in the Netherlands,

which means that growers can now start

using the method. This represents a big

step forward in terms of implementing

practical solutions. Within the EMPHASIS

project, some growers have already started

experiments with the technique together

with Wageningen University and Research



Current WP5 activities for the dissemination

of project achievements and training

opportunities are contributing to policymaking


The work package uses multiple

communication channels, including

social media, to disseminate the project’s

research findings and to stimulate current

and new networks. A good example of WP

activities is the dissemination of a survey

among farmers to stimulate discussion

on current needs in terms of sustainable

integrated pest management.

Training activities are an important forum

for communication and the identification of

new research opportunities. In particular,

the exchange programme between

partners provides a good basis for the

replication of pilot activities at national and

international level.

Other tasks of WP5 include the regular

management and updating of the database,

the dissemination and publications table,

stakeholder mapping, and the training

plan. Key outcomes foreseen for this period

are the third project newsletter and the

HabiThreats software outline in February



The first project report was submitted by

WP6 to the European Commission Research

Executive Agency (covering March 2015

to August 2016), and the first review

meeting with external experts was held

in Szentendre, Hungary, in October 2016.

The project is proceeding as planned,

although three amendments to the grant

agreement have been necessary to date, to

cover administrative, financial and ethical

issues. A web-based collaborative platform,

hosted in the reserved area of the project

website, is used to exchange information and

documents within the consortium.

Links with other relevant projects and

initiatives have been created — in particular

with the EUCLID project, involving several

partners. The European Commission also

promoted a clustering session on June 29,

2016, with the coordinators of projects funded

in the context of the 2015 call for proposals for


PONTE, and Landmark). Regular monitoring

of WP progress is carried out. The focus of

WP6 is now to ensure the expected results

during the second project period and their

exploitation, while maintaining the protection

of intellectual property rights.



ISSUE 03 February 2017

We hope you have found this newsletter interesting and informative. We welcome your views on any of the

issues covered: please email agroinnova@unito.it

You are invited to distribute the newsletter to any other interested parties.


The information expressed in this newsletter reflects the views of the contributors. The European

Commission is not liable for any of the information contained therein. The EMPHASIS consortium cannot

accept any liability for the accuracy of the content.

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Integrētās Audzēšanas Skola



AGROINNOVA, Centre of Competence for Innovation

in the Agro-environmental Field,

University of Turin, Italy

Largo Paolo Braccini, 2

(former Via Leonardo da Vinci, 44)

10095 Grugliasco (TO), Italy

Phone: +39 011 6708539

Fax: +39 011 6709307

E-mail: agroinnova@unito.it



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