LIFE Resilience shares its experience to fight Xyella in Portugal

Life Resilience, a project co-financed by the European Union (EU) LIFE programme, whose main objective is the prevention of Xylella fastidiosa in high-density olive and almond orchards, organised a seminar on 29 March in the Portuguese city of Elvas.

The aim of this initiative is to inform farmers in the area of the good practices that the project is carrying out to combat this bacterium in olive and almond crops.

The event started with the opening session by one of our partners, Nutriprado, with its commercial manager Vasco Abreu, together with the regional director of Nature Conservation of Antelejo, Gloria Martins, the regional director of Agriculture, José Calado and the mayor of Elvas, José Rondão Almeida.

The seminar continued with one of the project partners, Greenfield Technologies, as speaker of the day ‘Digitalisation in sustainable practices in olive and almond groves’. Jorge Blanco, head of R&D, recalled the meaning of agricultural digitalisation, pointing out that it can be understood as a tool available to farmers» to achieve more efficient management of their production systems». Likewise, the expert pointed out that this technique can mean «a more attractive countryside that can strengthen generational replacement and the fixation of the rural population».

Afterwards, José Carlos Caballero, technical director of the ASAJA Projects Department, explained to the audience «The role of associations, institutions and cooperatives in the Life Resilience project».

Caballero stressed that «the prevention of this bacterium is vital, with correct crop management and the maintenance of a healthy state of the plantations» and added that «participation in alert networks and early detection are essential in the event of the appearance of an isolated outbreak to prevent its spread and reduce, if necessary, the damage to farmers and administrations in the form of the budget that may be caused», the expert emphasised.

Vasco Abreu, Nutriprado’s commercial manager, then gave the next presentation of the day, entitled «Mowing between rows», which was followed by Filipa Tereso and her presentation «Functional biodiversity as a tool for limiting pests».

Finally, a round table discussion was held with José Maria Falcão, member of the Associação Interprofissional da Fileira Olivícola (AIFO) acting as moderator and with the participation of Paula Sá Pereira (INIAV Oeiras), Manuel Barrera (Charqueirão) Pedro Fevereiro (Inove Plan Protect), Diogo Pacheco (Treemond) and Ricardo Miguelañez (Agrifood Comunicación).

During the talk, some questions were raised such as the main achievements of Life Resilience in these four years of work, in which more than 10 genotypes of olive tree tolerant to Xylella have been developed, a system of good practices that increase the resistance of woody crops (olive and almond), the ability to generate savings in production costs for farmers by reducing resources such as water, fuel and fertiliser used on farms, and the awareness that this bacterium is a major environmental problem whose progress will help more than 1 million farmers in Mediterranean countries.

Another issue raised was the use of practices promoted by the project such as ground covers, auxiliary flora, insect hotels and bird shelters that allow a large number of micro-organisms and diverse fauna to grow in the crop, thus ensuring the presence of natural predators that keep the main organisms transmitting Xylella at bay.

It was also discussed how the intensive use of fertilisers generates greenhouse gases that escape into the atmosphere and affect soil microfauna causing a loss of biodiversity. Life Resilience practices, especially the use of cover crops, biostimulants and biofertilisers, significantly increase soil health.

Specifically, Life Resilience has contributed to meeting a number of the targets set by the United Nations for each of its SDGs, such as sustainable production and consumption, taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts, sustainable forest management, combating desertification, halting and reversing land degradation and halting biodiversity loss, among others.

Of equal interest among the roundtable members was the implementation of innovative precision farming practices to manage treatment in the project’s demonstration fields. To this end, MAP2SOIL technology has been used, which uses conductivity sensors and GPS to produce zoning maps of the plots; drone flights with a thermal camera, given that infected trees show a different temperature to healthy ones; satellite images to analyse plant development on the farms; and a platform with geo-referenced data for Life Resilience members, as well as for those farmers and companies adhered to the project as replication plots.

To conclude the day, some of the dissemination actions that Life Resilience has carried out to publicise the progress achieved were highlighted, such as its dissemination on the website, newsletters, digital and print media, television and radio. This has attracted the interest of influential media and the participation of members in numerous interviews.

Social media and audiovisual media such as videos have also been used, as well as dissemination on the European Commission’s platform to combat Climate Change (CLIMATE ADAPT).

Collaborations with Asaja to transfer these advances to farmers in Spain and Europe have been developed through training sessions for the sector and, lastly, the project has been promoted among legislators, at national and international level, so that they take it into account for future policies that they implement in terms of sustainability, biodiversity (European Biodiversity Strategy) and in the future CAP, which will soon be applied throughout Europe.