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Research activities of the Plant Health Laboratory

The research activities of the Plant Health Laboratory focus on:

  • the characterisation of quarantine and emerging pests in all fields: bacteriology, entomology, mycology, nematology and virology.  This characterisation uses approaches based on taxonomy, the population genetics, and the study of pathogenicity;
  • the epidemiology of diseases and the dynamics of invasions;
  • the mechanisms responsible for the spread of pests including weeds, insect pests, and insect vectors of pathogens;
  • tropical and non-tropical pests and pathogens;
  • the ecology of invasive plants;
  • the detection and characterisation of non-listed genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

In parallel, the LSV maintains its analytical capacities at a high level by participating in research and development programmes. To achieve this, the research questions addressed in responses to calls for tenders for national (CASDAR) and international (H2020, PRIMA, ERA-NET (Euphresco)) collaborative projects primarily involve pests, with:

  • the biological characterisation and phylogeny of emerging pests or those considered to pose a risk;
  • the study by molecular typing or sequencing of the genetic diversity, structure and adaptive potential of their populations;
  • possible vector organisms and their geographical distribution.

In addition, the LSV is involved in studying the spread of pests, for example by improving sampling techniques, characterising biological cycles and identifying factors determining the success of introduction and establishment.

The LSV seeks to systematically make known the results obtained, during the most renowned national and international symposia in its fields of expertise and in A and A+ journals having the most significant impact. Training through research, especially doctoral research, contributes considerably to the LSV's research activities.

Research projects

Development of tools for the characterisation and detection of fungi posing emerging risks to pome fruit crops: Alternaria spp. and Venturia spp.

Funding: Special Fund for Agricultural and Rural Development (CASDAR)

Partners: ANSES's Lyon Laboratory, Interprofessional Technical Centre for Fruit and Vegetables (CTIFL), Research Institute on Horticulture and Seeds in Angers, FREDON Auvergne Rhône-Alpes, secondary school for general education and agricultural technology in Valence.

This project aims to optimise the control of pests of pome fruit trees by acquiring knowledge on two major genera of pathogenic fungi: Venturia spp. and Alternaria spp. In particular, this will involve developing detection tools; reviewing the distribution of these pathogens in France; identifying, within the two major species complexes, the pathogenicity genes involved in the diseases they cause; characterising their resistance to the main plant protection products used in orchards; developing a protocol for trapping spores in field conditions; and identifying the geographic origin of the Alternaria strains found in France.

Euphresco projects

Euphresco is a network of organisations funding research projects and coordinating national research in the area of plant protection. The overall goals are to support international coordination and collaboration in the area of plant protection research and to become a strong, long-term network of funders that fully incorporates existing and new members.

Global warming and distribution of root-knot nematode species of the tropical group

Funding: Euphresco

Partners: AIS (Slovenia), INIAV (Portugal), CFE and CIEPQPF (Portugal), NPPO (Netherlands), Institute Tamiš (Serbia)

Tropical nematodes of the group Meloidogyne spp. are considered an emerging problem for plant health in Europe. This project aims to anticipate the potential damage these species can cause to crops of economic importance, in particular in a context of climate change. The goals are to map the distribution of tropical species in Slovenia, France, Portugal and Serbia, evaluate the survival ability of M. incognita and M. arenaria in the climatic conditions of continental Europe, validate biochemical and molecular methods for the diagnosis of these tropical nematodes, and generate, for each tropical species found in Europe, maps showing the risk of spread.

Sampling and analysis of asymptomatic citrus fruits and leaf litter to detect the infection of Phyllosticta citricarpa

Funding: Euphresco

Partners: CREA (Italy), BBI (Greece), ISA (Tunisia), European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization          

This project aims to improve detection techniques for the Phyllosticta citricarpa quarantine fungus, the causal agent of citrus black spot (CBS), especially for asymptomatic treated fruit that is nonetheless infected. The project also aims to evaluate sampling strategies to be used for the detection of this parasite on asymptomatic fruit.

Epidemiology and diagnosis of potato phytoplasmas and 'Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum' and their contribution to risk management in potato and other crops 

Funding: Euphresco

This project, following on from the previous Euphresco PhyLib and PhyLib II projects, will contribute to improving knowledge on the bacteria responsible for vegetative disorders in potatoes: bacteria in phloem (sap-transporting tissue), bacteria of the phytoplasma group, and the bacterial species Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum.

Early detection of Phytophthora in EU and third country nurseries and traded plants

Partners: Forest Research (United Kingdom), BPI (Greece), AGES (Austria)        

Funding: Euphresco

This project's objective is to validate a sampling and metabarcoding method for detecting Phytophthora sp., a group of pathogenic oomycetes, in plant nurseries. It will determine the potential risk of introduction and spread, through traded plants, of various emerging Phytophthora sp. species and will enable measures to be taken to reduce this risk in nurseries.

Pantoea stewartii and new diagnostic tools         

Funding: Euphresco

The aim of this project is to propose, at European level, a protocol for the detection and identification of the bacterium Pantoea stewartii subsp. stewartii on maize plants and seeds.  It is promoting and integrating technological breakthroughs capable of distinguishing between the subspecies stewartii and indologenes. It complements a previous Euphresco project that led to the amendment of the diagnostic protocol of the European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization (EPPO) for this bacterium.

Reliable detection of pathogens in soil

Funding: Euphresco

Partners: Naktuinbouw (Netherlands), AGES (Austria), CREA (Italy), PPIS (Israel), FMFA (Germany), CFIA and UG (Canada), MARE (Cyprus), UKZUZ (Czech Republic), IPPNAAS (Ukraine), MAFF (Slovenia)   

The objective of this project is to develop a method for extracting DNA from soil that could be used with larger volumes than those conventionally proposed for commercial extraction kits. DNA extraction from larger amounts of soil will enable more representative samples to be analysed for the detection of major pathogenic micro-organisms in plants.

European Virus Archive – GLOBAL

Funding: European Union as part of the INFRAIA call – Horizon 2020

This project has 38 partners from around the world, including the LSV. Led by the University of Marseille, it aims to provide the scientific and industrial community with access to collections of strains of human, animal and plant viruses. These strains will help anticipate new emerging agents and will also constitute reference material required for experimentation, research, and the validation of detection methods in laboratories worldwide.

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Collectively managing varietal resistance to populations of potato cyst nematodes

Funding: Special Fund for Agricultural and Rural Development (CASDAR)

Partners: DGAL, INRAE, French Federation of Seed Potato Producers, Arvalis-Plant Institute, French Association of Potato Breeders (ACVNPT), Noirmoutier Cooperative

This project was initiated in response to the discovery, in Northern Europe, of populations of virulent nematodes in potato varieties considered as resistant. It has five objectives: the epidemiological surveillance and characterisation of the nematode populations present in France; the characterisation of the virulence level of Globodera populations that may be present; the analysis of the individual and collective strategies of professionals in the potato sector and the identification of new sustainable methods for the management of resistance; the development of molecular markers associated with resistance factors for G. pallida and G. rostochiensis from various sources of resistance; and the phenotypic characterisation of multi-resistant plant material in laboratories and in conditions of natural infestation.

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Research and Development Project for a citrus fruit sector with high added value in AlUla

Funding: French Agency for AlUla Development (AFALULA)

Partners: CIRAD, INRAE, Mas Bachès, Agro Prospective Marrakech

The international High Value Citrus for AlUla project aims to develop a sustainable, high-added-value citrus fruit sector in the AlUla region of Saudi Arabia, which would like to diversify its economic activities and capitalise on the genetic resources of its citrus fruit. This project is coordinated by CIRAD. ANSES is in charge of health evaluations relating to citrus fruit quality for the research and development component.

  • Horizon Scanning (2019-2023, ERB unit)

Funding: European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)

Partners: EFSA, Joint Research Centre of the European Commission

The objective of the Horizon Scanning project is the forward-looking analysis of the media and scientific literature with the aim of identifying new and emerging pests in the European Union. It has also led to the design of a system for classifying new and emerging pests, to identify those requiring a risk analysis by EFSA or changes to border control measures.

Reduce risk assessment uncertainty: suitability of Mediterranean citrus production areas for Phyllosticta citricarpa

Funding: European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)

Partners: IVIA (Spain), NIB (Slovenia), ISA (Tunisia)

This project’s objective is to reduce uncertainties associated with the risk of introduction of the fungus P. citricarpa, the causal agent of citrus black spot (CBS) disease, in Mediterranean citrus production areas. It will improve knowledge on the epidemiology of the disease and climate suitability for its establishment in the Mediterranean Basin.

Measuring and mapping plant virus diversity on an ecosystem scale

Funding: French National Research Agency

Partners: INRAE, CIRAD La Réunion, Tour du Valat Research Institute, Mascarin National Botanical Conservatory, CNRS, Arizona State University (United States), University of Cape Town and University of the Western Cape (South Africa)

This international project is being coordinated by CIRAD in Montpellier for a period of four years.

It aims to better understand exchanges of viruses between natural or managed ecosystems and cultivated species. This study will improve knowledge on these interactions between environments that are responsible for numerous emerging viruses, by mapping the genetic traces of viral adaptations and evolutionary fingerprints and by characterising substitutions and recombinations within viral genomes. To achieve this, the teams will work simultaneously on several natural and cultivated ecosystems and their interfaces.

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Improving methods for the identification of Phytophthora ramorum outbreaks in France

Funding: Directorate General for Food (DGAL)/French Forest Health Department (DSF)

Partners: INRAE, University of Lorraine

This project aims to develop methods for identifying forest and nursery outbreaks of Phytophthora ramorum in Brittany, in order to help the DGAL manage the risks posed by these outbreaks in natural environments.

Protecting mirabelle and damson plum crops from plum pox

Funding: FranceAgriMer

Partners: INRAE, FREDON, Experimental Orchard of Alsace (VEREXAL), Regional Association for Fruit Experimentation of Eastern France (AREFE), Grand-Est Regional Directorate for Food, Agriculture and Forestry

The objective of the SharkSecure project is to protect mirabelle and damson plum crops from plum pox by providing producers and risk managers with new knowledge and detection protocols. Coordinated by INRAE Montpellier, this project has seven national partners, including ANSES. ANSES's research work focuses on the early detection of the disease.

Smart and Innovative monitoring of airborne fungal invaders by molecular methods

Funding: LabEx ARBRE

Partners: INRAE, University of Lorraine

The SIAMOIS project aims to capitalise on the National Aerobiological Surveillance Network (RNSA), used for the microscopic monitoring of human allergen particles, to study and monitor certain fungal species. It intends to use this network as a molecular monitoring tool for certain quarantine and regulated fungal species, for the epidemiological evaluation of forest pathogenic fungi and the study of airborne fungal communities.

Funding: European H2020 programme

Partners: Agrinnova, Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER) – Agroscope, Loewe Biochemica GmbH, Bioreba AG, EPPO, Fera Science Ltd, National Institute of Biology, ClearDetections B.V, Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority, Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech - University of Liège, International Plant Analysis and Diagnostics, Sediag SAS, Stichting Wageningen Research, PIORIN, Council for Agricultural Research and Economics

The goal of Valitest was to improve diagnostic tools for plant pests such as bacteria, viruses, nematodes and fungi. This detection is essential for taking measures against these harmful organisms as early as possible, both to limit the damage to plants and to avoid their dispersion in the environment. Central to the project was the validation of pest detection kits. The performance of 83 tests, designed to detect 11 pests, was assessed. The project also examined the statistical studies needed to validate these diagnostic tools, the quality and harmonisation of the reference materials used to assess the tests and the assessment of the laboratories' ability to use the diagnostic tests, and sought to identify the expectations of test users, producers and the services for which the diagnostic results are intended.

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