Plant Health: EU Prioritises 20 Pests

The EU Commission lists 20 priority pests presenting the most serious economic, environmental and social impact on agriculture and forestry.

Xylella fstidiosa has been ranked the pest with the highest potential impact.

The bacterium Xylella fastidiosa affecting olive trees, almond, grapevine among other important crops, as well as the Japanese beetle, Citrus Black Spot, Citrus greening and the Asian long-horned beetle are among the top ranking pests affecting plant health in Europe.

This ranking has helped the Commission to list 20 quarantine pests as priority pests.

In the last years outbreaks of several plant pests new to the Union territory have been damaging the European crops and trees.

For example, the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa has been killing centenary olive trees in South of Italy, and the rising populations of the Japanese beetle (Popillia japonica) have been causing an important damage in the fruit tree orchards.

Globalisation of travel and trade as well as climate change are among the main drivers of emerging plant health risks.

Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, responsible for the Joint Research Centre (JRC), said: "To effectively protect our plants and our citizens’ quality of life, we first need to capture the harmful impact of pests like the Japanese beetle or the citrus black spot on our economy, environment and society. Thanks to a new indicator designed by the Joint Research Centre, we can now estimate the harm caused by these pests across several dimensions, including less tangible ones, such as landscape and cultural heritage or biodiversity and ecosystems. This has enabled us to identify the 20 worst offenders we should focus our efforts on."

Working in close collaboration with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the JRC experts calculated potential impact of 28 quarantine plant pests such as insects, bacteria, nematodes and fungi.

On that basis, the European Commission has adopted under the new Plant Health Law a delegated act listing 20 pests as priority pests.

The inclusion of these pests in the EU priority pest list means obligations for member states regarding information campaigns, enhanced surveys, contingency plans, simulation plans and action plans for eradication.

Emilio Rodriguez Cerezo, deputy head of Economics of Agriculture unit in the JRC, and a co-author of the recently published JRC Report, stated : "In general, the new methodology helps the Member States and responsible authorities to take decisions on how to best allocate their resources based on soundest scientific evidence available. We have designed a methodology to support policy makers and risk managers in ranking quarantine pests. Thanks to it we can now estimate the potential impact of quarantine pests on the economic, social and environmental domains. This tool integrates into a single indicator the estimations of production losses, impacts on trade, on employment and other socioeconomic indicators. But also we have created indicators for less tangible dimensions, such as impacts on recreation, landscape and cultural heritage and on biodiversity and ecosystem services.”

The new methodology shows for example that the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa, the pest with the highest impacts on agricultural crops, including fruit, has the potential of causing annual production losses of 5.5 billion euros, affecting 70% of the EU production value of older olive trees (over 30 years old), and 35% value of younger ones; 11% of citrus; 13% of almond and between 1-2% of grape production in a scenario of full spread across the entire EU.

In addition to direct impacts on production, pests have significant indirect effects on upstream or downstream economic sectors.

For example, full spread of the Asian long-horned beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis) could result in the direct loss of over 5% of the overall growing stock of several EU forestry tree species, such as alder, ash, beech, birch, elm, hornbeam, maple, plane tree, poplar, prunus, rowan tree or willow, valued at 24 billion euros, a loss that could imply an economic impact in the upstream forestry sector of €50 billion (AU$81 billion).

Impacts in the cultural and food heritage can also be high.

The Japanese beetle could cause losses on more than 80 products protected by EU quality labels.

As an example of environmental impacts indicator, the citrus long-horned beetle (Anoplophora chinensis) ranked first in terms of the potential number of plant species currently grown in the EU streets and parks that could be affected.

Read the entire Act here