Project name:

Horizon 2020 VIRTIGATION project

Feedstock origin:

Food & Agriculture


Viral diseases are not only affecting European fields and greenhouses: across the globe, from Morocco, Israel to India, tomatoes and cucurbits are vital staple crops that are under threat. Colossal losses in harvests have been reported, ranging from 15% to entire crop destruction. As the world needs to increase its food production by at least half by 2050 to feed a growing population, mitigating the devastating impact of plant diseases is essential to ensure sufficient food supply, both in quantity and quality. In response to this global threat, VIRTIGATION – Emerging viral diseases in tomatoes and cucurbits: implementation of mitigation strategies for durable disease management -, is a Horizon 2020 project on a mission to protect tomatoes and cucurbits in Northern Europe and the Mediterranean Basin. In collaboration with partners from key EU neighboring areas and trade partners across the globe – Morocco, Israel and India – VIRTIGATION will develop short-, medium- and long-term solutions to the emerging viral diseases caused by begomoviruses (whitefly-transmitted) and tobamoviruses (mechanically transmitted) on tomato and cucurbit crops. The VIRTIGATION project will further increase the know-how for better control and management of these viral diseases in the entire tomato and cucurbit value chain, thanks to its multi-actor approach anchored in co-creation and co-design. VIRTIGATION is running for 4 years (June 2021 – May 2025) and is coordinated by the Laboratory for Tropical Crop Improvement at the Department of Biosystems of KU Leuven (Belgium).


Knowledge sharing and engagement of stakeholders in research activities

Develop robust diagnostic tests, quarantine measures and identify ecological factors driving disease outbreaks

Understand plant-virus-vector interactions

Develop Integrated Pest Management (IPM) solutions

Identify and pyramid natural resistance to viral diseases and vectors

Train the tomato and cucurbit value chains


Enable understanding the drivers of plant virus emergence and spread, including the impacts of climate change, thanks to a novel online analysis tool – the Genome Detection Platform -, and the development of an emerging virus warning app;

Creation of tools to prevent, detect and control plant diseases, including through diagnostic tests, online tracking and tracing and full genome sequencing – “test, track & trace”;

Develop systemic, environmentally friendly and long-lasting solutions to control both viruses and their vectors, in line with the principles of Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

Reduce economic, social and environmental losses for European agriculture and horticulture, by training the entire tomato and cucurbit value chain in using virus- and vector-control measures such as resistant plant varieties, vaccines and disinfection;

Support EU plant health data management and policies, by creating a network on emerging plant virus detection – the VIRTIGATION network -, and providing knowledge exchange and advisory tools to farmers, growers and other stakeholders through a comprehensive multi-actor approach coordinated by expert National Knowledge Brokers;

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