‘To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life.’
This is Wageningen University & Research's mission. We are a research institution that focuses on the domain ‘healthy food and living conditions’. We do not just develop top-quality expertise; we also help translate our knowledge into practice worldwide. Support our projects and contribute to the quality of life.
Xylencer: fighting the plant disease Xylella fastidiosa
There is a deadly disease spreading through the olive groves of Southern Italy and it is slowly expanding its grip over Europe. Hundreds of acres of century-old olive trees have already fallen prey to the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa. An effective cure has not yet been found. Our iGEM team, Xylencer, has taken up the challenge of addressing this. We expect to lay a foundation for a new and effective method to combat this bacterium and prevent it’s spread. You can support this project by contributing to the costs of this research.
It all started in the summer of 2013, in the Apulia region of Italy. Olive farmers and their families noticed that some of their olive trees started to dry out. They couldn’t understand why, it wasn’t a particularly dry year, especially considering that most olive trees were already in the family for countless generations and had seen much worse. By the next summer, whole olive groves had died out.This forced olive farmers to go out of business, rendering them unable to care for their families. The devastation attracted the attention of the local scientists, who found out that the olives were suffering from an infectious plant disease. Deep under their thick bark was a bacterium called Xylella fastidiosa. This bacterium was slowly depriving the olive trees of water, killing them from the inside out. Xylella might have been new to the European continent, but it was already notorious in North and South America. Here it was known to infect hundreds of different plant species, ranging from the iconic sycamore tree to garden plants like oleander. It has been plaguing Californian vineyards for over 100 years and it has brought the Brazilian citrus industry to a grinding halt.
Despite its long history, there is still no effective method to cure this disease. Currently, farmers try to control the bacterium byspraying large amounts of pesticides, burning diseased plants and preventatively removing susceptible plants near areas of infection. Despite all these measures the disease is still spreading through Europe, also infecting other plants than olives. Our project,Xylencer, in collaboration with the Wageningen University, is exploring the possibility of using the natural enemies of bacteria, bacteriophages, to cure this disease.
With this project, we lay the foundation for the use of bacteriophage therapy in combatting Xylella fastidiosa. By providing an effective alternative, we hope to reduce the use of pesticides. Current applications of this type of therapy to other plant diseases suffer from low efficiency and have a laborious application process. With our project, we aim to improve the application by:
designing a protective delivery organism
improve efficiency by allowing the therapy to coordinate with the plant’s immune system
reach more infected plants by mimicking the way Xylella fastidiosa spreads itself.
The team behind Xylencer consists out of 11 Dutch and international students from the WageningenUniversity, who all share an interest in applying synthetic biology to present-day problems. Our project is part of the yearly iGEM competition, a competition where over 350 student teams from all over the world compete and collaborate to produce the most interesting and compelling research project that applies synthetic biology to current day problems. This summer we work towards our final goal: the ‘Giant Jamboree’ in Boston(Massachusetts, USA). Inthis finale, iGEM teams come together to present their projects, to interact with and inspire each other and to celebrate their achievements.
To carry out our research, the laboratories of Microbiology and Systems and Synthetic biology have provided us with lab space.However, we still need money to pay for the materials required for our experiments, like enzymes and purification kits. By contributing to our project, you help us pay for these materials and for the fees involved in partaking in this competition. But even more importantly: you show that you believe in a future where olives, grapes and other plants are still part of cultures and cuisines word wide.
You can help us make this project into a success and with that, getus one step closer to silencing Xylella fastidiosa.
*You will receive rewards from the level to which your donation belongs, as well as the rewards from the levels below.
**Rewards will be shipped to contributors in the Netherlands, we will contact foreign contributors about shipping costs.
***Rewards will be shipped after the end of the projects, so do not worry if your rewards take a long time to arrive!
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