Biocontrol of Xylella and its vector in olive trees for integrated pest management

Threat of Xylella Fastidiosa


Xylella fastidiosa is a bacterial plant pathogen which is transmitted by pests, more specifically xylem fluid feeding insects. The bacterium colonizes the Xylem vessels of the plant, which blocks the uptake of essential nutrients and water for plant health.

Once this happens, severe symptoms of Xylella become apparent, which often lead to plant death as they cannot be cured.

The spread of Xylella fastidiosa has been rapidly increasing across Southern Europe, damaging and destroying entire olive and almond orchards. One of the most impacted regions in Europe is the region of Apulia (Italy), where olive production diminished by an alarming 65%-80%. Heritage 400-year-old olive trees have been destroyed and an estimated 100,000 jobs have been lost. Similar outbreaks have been reported in Spain, Portugal, France and other regions.

To date, there is no organic solution available on the market to battle the devastation caused by Xylella. Effectively, this places the economic and social-cultural sustainability of Europe at risk.

Project overview

As a response to the increasing Xylella outbreaks in Europe, the BIOVEXO Project explores innovative biopesticides, which target the Xylella bacterium.

Six candidate biocontrol solutions acting either against Xylella or its vector will be tested within the BIOVEXO Project:

  • two bacterial strains
  • a microbial metabolite
  • two plant extracts
  • an entomopathogenic fungus

These biopesticides will be tested for use in curative and preventive approaches of Xylella fastidiosa. Following the small-scale on-field validation and improved formulation, the BIOVEXO Project aims to upscale production of best-performing biopesticides.

A large pilot scale on-field validation of control strategies for integrated pest management, including a real-life evaluation in two major Xylella outbreak regions in Europe will be conducted.

The BIOVEXO biopesticides will be demonstrated in a combined and integrated approach (IPM) on traditional and newly planted olive orchards in Apulia (Italy) and Mallorca (Spain). Additional testing will be done on almond trees.

BIOVEXO will provide a mechanistic understanding of the biopesticides’ mode of action to support final product development. Moreover, it will ensure environmental and economic sustainability in preparation for a smooth market entry.

The BIOVEXO Project is a Bio-Based Industries Joint  Undertaking (BBI-JU) Innovation Action .

Project objectives

The BIOVEXO Project aims to produce and test innovative biopesticides, bringing them to a TRL 7-8 (close to market entry) for use in organic and non-organic production systems, specifically:

  • Reducing Xylella pressure and disease severity in olive cultivation
  • Protecting and securing long-established olive orchards
  • Preventing Xylella infections and disease in new olive plantations
  • Securing and sustaining jobs in disease affected areas
  • Ensuring continued olive and almond cultivation