At the Aix-Marseille University, we use synthetic biology to cure plants of a disease caused by the plant pathogen Xylella fastidiosa.
Xylella fastidiosa is a major threat for agriculture.
This bacterium infects plants, causing a variety of damages in vinyards, olive groves and in over 300 other species. It has been widespread in the Americas for many years and is also present in Asia and Europe.
In 2015, more than 450 000 acres of European crops were lost because of this bacterium. Although X. fastidiosa has been recognized as a serious pathogen, there is no effective cure.
In fact, the only ways to slow down the spread of the disease are: to burn infected plants and those at risk nearby; and to massively use pesticides to kill insect vectors.
First, we aim to improve the early detection of the disease. Secondly, we want to get rid of the bacterium. For this, we use phages specific to X. fastidiosa, capable of injecting toxic genes in it. Finaly, we will disrupt the biofilm that causes mortality, quenching the bacterial quorum sensing and using an enzyme.
The human practice side of our project is crucial to our research. Therefore, we contacted associations of olive growers, to understand their needs and the expectation they have. We also asked for help from various experts to help us on our project.
We think that public engagement is important. So we created a survey but we also directly contacted the general public at several different events.
Finally, we tested our product in a model plant and investigated the legal requirements for obtaining the approvals necessary for commercialisation in the European Union.