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Italy: fighting pepper plant diseases

On Friday 23rd November 2018, Dr Laura Minozzi from the Institute for the Sustainable Protection of plants – CNR and Cristian Carli (Agrion Foundation) illustrated new technologies for monitoring the peppers’ diseases and they also showed the results of the 2018 experimentation on the varietal comparison of the half-long pepper.

Many insiders participated in the event. In 2018, in Piemonte 190 hectares of pepper were farmed, 14% less than in 2017.

Three new tools for fighting the plant disease: RNA-based vaccination, nanomaterials, essential oils.

Miozzi explains that “the RNA-based vaccination technique is applied with a spray so that a barrier immediately is formed on the plant thus blocking the virus right away. This technique – also known as plant vaccination – was already used and approved by the USA in 2017. RNA is not dangerous for humans and it quickly decays either in soil or in water. Also, it is compatible with organic farming. However, this technology has some limitations regarding the production costs and big-scale production – also, its effects last for a few days only. Therefore, we are working to make the dsRNA molecules more stable – by associating them with chitosan nanostructures”.

Recently, there has been a widespread interest in nanomaterials because of their ability to use products on the plant in a healthy way. The nanoparticles can be associated with the dsRNA in order to improve the plant protection. “dsRNA associated with nanoparticles have been tested against the mosaic virus of the cucumber and of the pepper”.

Finally, the essential oils. These are complex mixtures with low molecular weight. They can be used as a repellent against insects. Additionally, they can fight back viral infections. “Essential oils have limitations too, such as the short-time efficacy and the production costs”.

In the end, Cristian Carli, horticulture expert, gave a talk illustrating the selection of red berry and yellow berry pepper which are undergoing an experimentation in 2018. 14 red berry pepper and 9 yellow berry pepper selections were sampled. The harvesting is usually carried out during September. Each plant produced around 4-6 kg, depending on the selection. Flamino and Giappo are the red berry pepper selection and Helios is the yellow pepper – which is under observation for the first year. 

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