DIVAS (Deep Investigation of Virus Associated Sequences)

Plant viral diseases are currently a major economic problem in agriculture throughout the world. The increasing importance of vegetative propagation in plant production and the intensified global plant trade are further increasing the risk of viral diseases in Europe. The objective of the Action is to coordinate and raise the European capacity to apply Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) technologies for the study and diagnosis of viral diseases in vegetatively propagated plants, seeds and seedlings. NGS enables rapid and reliable holistic virus identification (indexing), which is needed for the development of innovative, knowledge-based solutions for plant production. By bringing together a multidisciplinary and multi-actor consortium, the Action will ensure cost-effective research and build up a strong Pan-European knowledge-based network for better control of established, emerging and exotic viral plant diseases. The Action will deliver new scientific knowledge about viral plant diseases that are currently poorly understood, and contribute to the development of more effective surveillance of stock material health and to the improvement of quarantine procedures. The Action thus implements the European strategy of integrated pest management and protection against harmful plant pathogens and contributes to the securement of food production.

Objectives

DIVAS has four main objectives:

1.  Coordinate scientific efforts and provide a research framework to reach a comprehensive characterization of the plant virome, including new and emerging viruses, and to understand its impact on plants of key economic importance for Europe. The target is in agriculture, but, for example, forestry will benefit of this Action as similar problems are encountered hampering its ecosystemic services. 2.  Coordinate and harmonize European knowledge-base for technological standards and validation of reliable NGS protocols for use in relevant areas of plant virus diagnostic. 3.  Discuss, agree and disseminate decision schemes on plant virus diagnostic for policy makers, European and National Plant Protection Agencies and diagnostic laboratories. 4.  Discuss, agree and disseminate a scientific position and expertise on the impact of NGS on virus taxonomy and on the plant-virus interactions for other researchers, for plant and seed producers and for regulatory agencies.

Impacts

The impact of DIVAS will target three levels:

1. Improving the technological level: networking and developing a collaboration platform to produce validated protocols for specific NGS applications in diagnostics. These protocols will also be useful for basic and applied research in etiology, taxonomy, population genetics and plant-virus interactions. 2. Streamlining the basic research: Associating on-going research projects to the Action: i) to increase basic knowledge of viromes in targeted host plants species, fruit trees and small fruit plants, grapevine, tomato, potato but also to a lesser extent to forestry, by building an efficient network of dedicated researchers, ii) to improve knowledge in etiology, epidemiology and diagnosis of viral diseases, iii) to update virus taxonomy and iv) to increase knowledge of plant diseases present in the EU, which will improve control strategies. 3. Bringing technical and social innovations: Improving plant virus control at European borders and within European territories through scientific and evidence-based recommendations for a safer plant trade inside and outside Europe to Policy Makers, National and European Plant Protection Organisation and diagnostic laboratories.

Useful links

Description of the Action in the COST Website

Memorandum of Understanding