Main research question
The consumer, as well as pioneering growers, show a growing interest in the edible tubers yacon, ulluco, batat (a kind of sweet potato), crosne, mashua, oca and the so-called "forgotten vegetable" Jerusalem artichoke. These are niches in a relatively new market, where there are few plant disease studies or food safety rules. The plant material (the seed, the nodules, the cuttings) that sometimes come from exotic destinations or via internet orders into the country can easily introduce new pests and diseases. This project therefore poses an essential question with a phytosanitary impact: what can be done in the introduction of unprecedented/new diseases when these crops are grown in the vicinity of the ' traditional ' commercial crops?
The project will address the following questions, focusing on tuber producing crops which are vegetatively propagated (i.e. yacon, ulluco, sweet potato, crosne, mashua, oca (new crops) and Jerusalem artichoke). We find the same questions coming up: where are these new crops cultured in Belgium, what are the varieties and how is the planting material distributed? What is the origin of planting materials of new crops? Which viruses and nematodes are associated with propagation materials and marketed new crops? What are the phytosanitary risks of these organisms?Which phytosanitary measures can reduce the introduction and distribution of some of these new plant pathogens?
The inventory of pathogenic viruses and nematodes on the newly introduced tubers gives a better picture of the risk that these pathogens form for the respective crops themselves and for other (related) crops that are in Belgium and for which these viruses and nematodes are a host. This knowledge is needed to support the decision-making schedule for the Belgian and EU authorities, if detected in imported material in Belgium or the EU. The PRONC project generally promotes the characterisation of new or existing viruses in Belgium and optimizes the diagnostics for virus detection, which leads to better plant health in the country.