Use of Fungus Found Effective Against Carriers of Xylella

The preliminary results of a field trial show that the Beauveria bassiana fungus reduced the number of meadow spittle bugs, which carry Xylella fastidiosa, by 80 percent.

Preliminary results of a field trial demonstrated that the Beauveria bassiana fungus appeared to be beneficial against the meadow spittlebug, a known carrier of Xylella fastidious pauca.

Claudio Cantini, a researcher at the Italian National Research Council’s Institute of BioEconomy, said the tests were a good first step in finding a sustainable solution to curb the spread of the disease, which is associated with olive quick decline syndrome (OQDS).

“The experimentation was carried out in the frame of the LIFE Resilience project, which aims to find sustainable solutions to curb the spread of Xylella fastidiosa in intensive olive and almond groves,” Cantini said. “Then, we are implementing the information obtained by the large E.U.-funded research projects on Xylella, in order to find and communicate to farmers sustainable agronomic practices, from actions that increase soil vitality to plant treatments, with the aim of enhancing the resilience of trees to pests."

As part of the three-year project, Cantini started to monitor the presence of the meadow spittlebug in various olive groves in Follonica, Tuscany, where he noticed a high presence of this insect in some areas, with significant differences in population density between adjacent zones.

“I started to do little preliminary tests with products allowed in organic farming, based on the information gathered in Puglia,” Cantini explained. “I knew that a product based on the fungus Beauveria bassiana, which attacks various types of insects, works well in a humid environment, and then I applied it, along with other products, on the foam produced by spittlebugs.

After a week, the researchers noticed that the fungus-based product had a greater effect than a pyrethroid insecticide used as a positive control, as in some cases the foam disappeared, in other cases, the number of insects decreased. More