INTOMED develops novel, effective and sustainable tools based on (a) widely-assessed interactions between plants and soil-borne beneficial microbes and (b) natural key plant (metabolites and peptides) and RNA molecules to enhance the resistance of economically important Mediterranean crops, i.e. tomato, olive and citrus, to major agricultural arthropod pests and pathogens. Soil-borne beneficial microbes have long been recognized for their ability to improve plant growth and nutrition and prime the plant immune system against pathogens and herbivores in plants. We will assess the potential of selected marketed and laboratory-owned strains of beneficial microbes, including endophytes, for their ability to improve crop resistance to arthropods and pathogens and study the molecular mechanisms involved in promising microbe-plant-pest combinations with the aim to identify plant secondary metabolites and peptides that mediate enhanced resistance and technically support future commercial biocontrol products. INTOMED also exploits the development of a GMO-free and effective pest control tool i.e. exogenous delivery of RNA molecules having the potential to trigger RNA interference (RNAi) against targeted pathogens/pests in both vegetables and fruit trees. Pilot demonstration trials, targeting end-users (farmers, SMEs) will assess promising beneficial microbes and plant molecules. In addition, INTOMED will increase public awareness of the nature of the proposed tools and analyse the impact of their acceptance. Our consortium includes 9 academic and industrial partners from Greece, Spain, France, Morocco, Portugal and Tunisia.
INTOMED aims to (1) advance existing knowledge and innovation in the field of crop protection and sustainable use of natural resources for food security and food quality and (2) ensure the adoption of knowledge through end user-friendly and societally-affordable solutions. NTOMED goals are in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically under goals: 2. ‘End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture’ and 15. ‘Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss’.
The overall objective of INTOMED is to identify, develop, validate and promote effective and sustainable Integrated Pest Management (IPM) tools by (a) exploiting beneficial interactions between plants and soil-borne microbes and (b) identifying naturally derived key molecules (peptides, metabolites and RNAs) to enhance the resistance of economically important Mediterranean crops against major agricultural arthropod pests and pathogens, as well as by (c) assessing the social acceptability of the proposed tools by end-users.
Proposed tools are ideal for use in preventive and curative integrated pest management (IPM) schemes in tomato, citrus and olive orhards. They include two groups of IPM tools/strategies: (1) novel applications of BM that will result from studying tri-trophic and tripartite interactions between plants-microbes-arthropods/pathogens, as well as (2) molecular innovative tools such as peptides, metabolites and RNAs. We expect to be able to propose tools from both groups for each key pest-crop combination. BM tools will enhance biological control means in INTOMED crops while MIT will be based on molecules naturally used by the plants in their defense against their enemies. INTOMED tools are compatible with other IPM tools, such as biological pest control with the use of natural enemies (insects, parasitoids). INTOMED will demonstrate multiple solutions for integrated pest/pathogen management and is fully in line with the expected impact of the PRIMA work programme to propose novel tools, such as the development of: (1) new biocontrol agents: INTOMED will identify, develop and test the application of soil-borne beneficial microbes against arthropod pests and pathogens of economically important crops, (2) naturally-derived compounds: INTOMED will identify, develop and validate plant genes, metabolites and peptides that the plants recruit to defend themselves against their enemies (making use of direct and/or indirect defenses). We aim to result in specific compounds that could be applied to directly combat the particular pests and pathogens under study or to increase ecosystem services provided by natural enemies, (3) new pest control tools: INTOMED will propose RNA delivery techniques to result in RNA interference against selected INTOMED pests/pathogens and crops. Overall, INTOMED tools aim to replace currently used chemicals for the control of key pests in tomato, citrus and olive trees via the exploitation of trophic interactions between plants, microbes, pests and their natural enemies and the identification of involved regulatory mechanisms. Hence, INTOMED results are also expected to indirectly help to avoid the rapid development of insecticide resistant populations of pests/pathogens Responsible and impactful research sits in the core of INTOMED that has been designed to generate knowledge, products, tools and processes (the INTOMED toolbox) to contribute to food security (Sustainable Development Goal-SDG2) in the Mediterranean region and beyond, by safeguarding crop production against pests in an environmental-friendly manner while increasing resilience of the crop systems in focus. INTOMED recruits cutting-edge science to develop top-notch approaches that will drive the innovation of sustainability. The innovation potential is high for all actors involved; farmers, biotechnology SMEs in the agro-industrial sector, policy-makers and regulators, environmentalists and scientists.
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