Fire Blight infection

Fire Blight

Fire Blight, disease provoked by the bacterium Erwinia amylovora, affects the Rosaceae family causing big economic losses on pome fruit farms (pear, quince, medlar and apple) as it happens in the Denominación de Origen Protegida Peras de Rincón de Soto (DOP PRS).

This bacterium comes from the USA and it has been documented in North America, Europe, Middle East, North of Africa and New Zealand. The European Union considers Erwinia amylovora as a quarantine pest. In Spain it was identified for the first time on 1995, becoming the whole national territory a Protected Area. From 2011 the Protected Area surface has been reduced forcing as to live together with the disease.

Last years in the DOP PRS more than 200 hectares have been uprooted because of the Fire Blight and yields have decreased due to the aggressive pruning farmers must do to try to control the disease.

Nowadays Fire Blight control measures are very limited because there is not a really effective active substance registered against the disease. Traditionally strategies to manage the disease include pruning infected branches, or even uprooting the tree, all together with the application of cupper compounds during the winter. Lately new product bases on microorganisms have been developed which strategy is to compete with the bacterium for the space. In any case there is no cure.

All these problems, far from being solved, are even they are getting worse. This pushed the technical team of the DOP PRS to look for lines of research in consonance with the new sustainable agriculture directed to fight Erwinia amylovora. After working hard, finally the DOP PRS has managed to put together in the project PhageFire GA:958645, funded by European Commission with 2.969.642,50€ a multidisciplinary team formed by ZHAW, Enviroinvest, Kimitec and the so called DOP PRS. The goal of this team is to find an EFFECTIVE solution against the Fire Blight.

The solution, called as the project: PhageFire, will consist in a cocktail of specific bacteriophages against Erwinia amylovora. The bacteriophages are virus that exclusively “prey on” bacterium and they are harmless for animals, human beings and the environment.