Research activities in Plant Protection concern the disciplines of Plant Pathology, Entomology, Pesticide Toxicology and Weed Science. Under each of these disciplines, specialized studies are conducted to address major crop protection problems associated with particular pests (insects, mites) or diseases (viral, prokaryotic and fungal). In addition, joint multi-disciplinary research projects targeting at all important pests and diseases of particular crops are undertaken. All studies are governed by the considerations of sustainability in crop protection and production, food quality and safety, environmental protection and the utilization of new technologies, for the development of more effective crop protection practices. Particular emphasis is given to the development of integrated pest and disease management programmes (IPM) which could be successfully implemented on a long-term basis.
In line with the above principles, the main activities of the Section concern the development of long-term projects on virus and virus-like diseases of citrus, grapevines, and stonefruits, aiming at the production, maintenance and distribution of healthy, true-to-type and horticulturally superior propagating stocks under insect-proof screenhouses in the form of Prebasic material. The techniques of thermotherapy and tissue culture, including micro-grafting in vitro, are used for cleaning selected grapevine and citrus stocks from virus and virus-like pathogens. The latter method is being used to obtain clean stocks of valuable local varieties of citrus, including the Lapithos lemon, Arakapas mandarin and various local clones and/or selections of sweet orange and other species and varieties. These are used to provide the Department of Agriculture and the private sector with pathogen-free mother stocks (basic material) for further propagation and production of certified propagating material for use by growers.
A different interdisciplinary ongoing research program is the development of integrated pest management (IPM) strategies on vegetable and ornamental crops based on various combinations of ecosystem-oriented methods, i.e. biological control, cultural practices, natural products, resistant varieties, resistant rootstocks, and minimal use of selected (mild) pesticides. This approach ensures sustainability and minimizes pesticide risk to human health and the environment. It can be applied alone or in combination with other ecosystem-oriented production practices, in the context of an even more advanced system of sustainable agriculture, known as integrated crop management (ICM).
A new research activity was recently initiated within the domain of Molecular Plant Pathology, aiming at the development and use of innovative nucleic acid technologies for the detection and characterization of plant pathogens. Implementation of molecular techniques proves to be a sensitive and accurate tool for the identification of plant pathogenic viruses, viroids, fungi and prokaryotes (Bacteria and Phytoplasmata).
In citrus, the work also includes the project for the control of Citrus tristeza virus (CTV), implemented jointly with the Department of Agriculture since 1991. This project involves extensive surveys and eradication of infected trees.
Theodora Κapari-Isaia, Niκos Seraphides, Lampros Papagiannis